Arkansans who rely on Medicaid are struggling to get mental health care because of changes that state officials made to billing and that have forced some providers to turn away patients and offer fewer services.
The Department of Human Services is enforcing a litany of Medicaid-billing changes, causing long waits to get service, frequent changes in therapists and difficulties in scheduling appointments to get care.
“They end up falling through the cracks,” Dianne Skaggs, the executive director of the Mental Health Council, said about the mentally ill patients.
Providers said they think the changes came as part of Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s agenda to save state money through cuts to Medicaid. But officials deny that. Paula Stone, deputy director of the Division of Medical Services, said the officials are trying to save money through fewer hospitalizations and better outpatient care.
The changes started in July, when the Human Services Department moved mental health care to a new system called Outpatient Behavioral Health Services, reducing what providers could bill for Medicaid outpatient behavioral health services, such as individual therapy, Skaggs said.
Also in July, officials began preventing providers from billing Medicaid for certain services in the same day – such as group therapy and individual therapy. Additionally, they disallowed patients who have both Medicare and Medicaid from using Medicaid as a secondary insurance.