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Eye On Boise

Posts tagged: Idaho Department of Health & Welfare

U.S. Supreme Court agrees to hear Idaho Medicaid reimbursement case appeal

An appeal from the state of Idaho over a court decision that required the state to increase its Medicaid reimbursement rates to private-sector health care providers to keep up with the rising cost of services is among cases the U.S. Supreme Court has decided to hear, the AP reports. A 2009 lawsuit argued that the state was unfairly keeping Medicaid reimbursement rates at 2006 levels despite studies showing that the cost of providing care had risen. A federal judge agreed, as did the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; the increased reimbursements cost the state an additional $12 million in 2013.

Click below for a full report from AP reporter Sam Hahanel in Washington, D.C. Twenty-seven states are supporting Idaho, which is arguing that the Constitution's supremacy clause doesn't allow private parties to bring this type of lawsuit against a state. The justices will take up the appeal next year.

Idaho reports first human case of West Nile virus this year, in Blaine County

Watch out for those mosquitoes - Idaho just just reported its first human case of West Nile virus for the season. Its a Blaine County woman in her 20s who is recovering and didn't require hospitalization, but last year, Idaho had 40 human cases and two deaths. Back in 2006, the state led the nation in West Nile cases with nearly 1,000 infections and 23 deaths. Mosquitoes in nine counties from north to south have tested positive for the virus, so state health officials are advising caution. “This is a good warning for everyone to aggressively take protective measures, such as wearing repellent and reducing mosquito breeding habitat around our homes,” said Dr. Leslie Tengelsen, deputy state epidemiologist. Click below for the full announcement from the Idaho Department of Health & Welfare.

Feds: Idaho H&W spent welfare funds correctly

An official with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says an Idaho agency spent $2.5 million in leftover welfare funding correctly, contrary to the findings of a state audit, the AP reports. Idaho's Legislative Services Office released an audit last week that examined how state agencies spent federal money. In the report, the auditors concluded that the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare wrongly used the money left over from the 2008 budget for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families to cover salaries instead of using it to help pay for food, housing and other assistance.

But department officials contested the auditors' finding, saying that federal rules changed at the start of fiscal year 2009 to allow states to spend leftover funds on all services that help keep needy families together — including the costs of providing those services, like salaries. The department used the money to cover part of the salaries of social workers who focused on keeping the state's poorest children out of foster care by placing them with extended family members when their parents could not care for them. After the audit was released, state welfare officials sought guidance from the federal agency to see if they'd done the right thing.Yes, said Karen Code in an email sent to the state; click below for a full report from AP reporter Rebecca Boone.

State auditors question use of federal welfare funds

State auditors say the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare misspent $2.5 million in federal welfare funding on salaries instead of using it to help pay for food, housing and other benefits provided to Idaho's poorest residents, the AP reports. But department officials say the money was used properly to help keep extremely low-income children out of foster care. The finding by the Legislative Services Office's Audits Division was part of the state's annual audit of how federal cash is used by Idaho agencies; click below for a full report from AP reporter Rebecca Boone.

Cost of rabies vaccine a shocker, Idahoans learn…

When Nicholle Joyce learned she'd been exposed to a rabid bat at a Spirit Lake home in May and she was nine days into the 10-day window for a lifesaving vaccine for the fatal disease, she did what her doctor's office suggested - she went to the emergency room.  The result: A $5,000 bill for her, and another matching one for her friend who was in the same bind. Joyce had insurance, but it had a $3,000 deductible, and is only paying about $830. Her friend had none; Medicaid covered the shots for the friend’s 15-month-old son, but not the single mom. “It’s absolutely impossible for everyone to get a due-on-receipt of $5,000 and just go with it,” said Joyce, a veterinary technician from Athol.

Health officials said they, too, were shocked by the high price of the rabies vaccine, which consists of five shots on four specific days over several weeks; so far this year, three bats have been found in North Idaho that tested positive for rabies. But it’s something that’s so rarely needed that few doctor’s offices would stock it.

“That sounds absolutely, egregiously horrible,” Bob Marsalli, CEO of the Montana Primary Care Association, which oversees community health clinics in that state, said of the cost, “unless it was a hospital administering the vaccine. Here’s what we know: The worst place to get primary care is in the hospital emergency room, and the charge schedule for hospitals is one of the reasons why health care has reached the place it is.”

Now, the Dirne Community Clinic in Coeur d’Alene, which hasn’t offered the rabies vaccine in the past, is looking into it because of Joyce’s case. “It certainly would be a lot less,” said Dirne CEO Mike Baker; his community health center charges patients on a sliding scale based on their income, and works with both insured and uninsured patients; you can read my full story here from Saturday’s Spokesman-Review.

Three Idahoans die from flu; vaccinations urged

Three people have died from the flu in Idaho, the state Department of Health & Welfare reports, all women over age 50; one was from southeastern Idaho and two from southwestern Idaho. “With the holiday season fast approaching, we strongly urge people to be vaccinated for flu so they and their loved ones remain healthy through the season,” said Dr. Kathryn Turner, the department's communicable disease prevention bureau chief.

This year's flu shot is a “great match to the circulating strains,” Turner said. “However, it takes about two weeks before peak antibody levels are reached and the vaccine’s protection is maximized. Unfortunately, only about a third of adults and 40 percent of children have received the flu vaccine so far this season. We’d really like to see an increase in vaccinations so people have a better chance at staying healthy.”

Click below for the full announcement from Health & Welfare.

Flu season has arrived in SW Idaho, vaccinations urged before Thanksgiving

Flu season has arrived in southwestern Idaho, the state Department of Health & Welfare reports, with cases already being reported in schools and long-term care facilities. Dr. Leslie Tengelsen, deputy state epidemiologist, said it's shown up earlier than usual. “With the approaching holidays and planned family gatherings, we strongly urge people to get vaccinated now to protect themselves and their loved ones,” Tengelsen said. Click below for the full announcement from Health & Welfare.

Consultant’s report outlines details of how Medicaid expansion would work

The Idaho Department of Health & Welfare has received its full report from consultant Leavitt Partners on potential expansion of Medicaid in Idaho under the Affordable Care Act. The governor's Medicaid expansion working group has scheduled a Sept. 27 meeting to review the report; click here for the full meeting announcement and links to the full report and its executive summary.

Among the report's findings: There's no deadline for the state to decide whether or not to expand its Medicaid program, and states can opt out of the expansion at any time. If Idaho decides to expand, the report recommends doing so in 2014, giving the state a full three years of 100 percent federal funding, and the option of opting out after those three years. That would require taking steps now to prepare, it notes. Other points in the report: Most of those who would become eligible for expanded Medicaid in Idaho have income of less than 100 percent of the federal poverty level - 75 percent fall below that level, and despite those low incomes, 64 percent are employed.

Idaho's existing Medicaid program offers no coverage to childless adults. Its current income limit for jobless parents is about 21 percent of the federal poverty level - that's $4,584 a year for a family of four - and for working parents, 39 percent.  The expansion would cover people with incomes up to 138 percent of the poverty line.

Disability services lawsuit dropped

Three guardians for developmentally disabled Idaho residents have dropped their lawsuit against the state over Medicaid changes, reports AP reporter Rebecca Boone; click below for her full report. The attorney for the group said the shift to a single provider of residential habilitation services for such patients statewide will result in more work for law enforcement and emergency rooms.

H&W claims ‘trade secret,’ won’t tell disabled patients why their benefits were cut - now they’re suing

A group of severely disabled Idahoans is suing the state after the Idaho Department of Health & Welfare cut their Medicaid benefits by as much as 40 percent, then refused to tell them why, saying its formula for the benefits is a “trade secret,” and therefore exempt from release under the Idaho Public Records Law, the AP reports; the secrecy makes it nearly impossible for the patients to appeal the decisions. Click below for a full report from AP reporter Rebecca Boone.

Clement named deputy director of Idaho Dept. of Health & Welfare

Leslie Clement, Medicaid administrator for Idaho's Department of Health & Welfare, is being promoted to deputy director overseeing Medicaid, Behavioral Health and Managed Care Services, replacing Deputy Director Dick Schultz, who is retiring after 33 years with the state. Daily administration of the Idaho Medicaid program will be handled by Paul Leary, who is being promoted to Idaho Medicaid plan administrator.

Dick Armstrong, state Health & Welfare director, said, “Like almost every state, Idaho is struggling with escalating Medicaid and mental health costs. Our challenge is to control those costs through managed care strategies while continuing to provide participants with necessary medical care. We are thrilled to have Leslie Clement lead our managed care efforts. She is a knowledgeable, well-respected, and an engaging leader who is skilled in building consensus with very difficult policy issues.”

Clement, who's been with the state since 2000 and has a master’s degree in public administration, said, “We have had to make very difficult decisions over the past few years and although we aren’t out of the woods yet, it is necessary for us to begin laying the groundwork for a different approach to the current health and social services delivery system.” You can read the department's full announcement here.

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About this blog

Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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