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In brief: State audit shows Medicaid overpayments

OLYMPIA – The state needs to a better job of checking its Medicaid managed-care programs for cost overruns, the state auditor’s office said Monday.

A limited audit of the Health Care Authority’s system to check doctors and other specialists in eight high-risk areas showed overpayments estimated at $17.5 million in 2010. Other tests showed billing error rates for administrative costs in samples from two of the largest organizations. Those overpayments could have raised the costs to those managed-care organizations, but they also could have cost the state more for higher premium rates in 2013 when the rates are calculated based on past costs. 

The Health Care Authority needs contracts with its managed-care systems that allow the agency to monitor data thoroughly, and to recover overpayments when they are found, auditors said. It should also give organizations clearer guidance on the data it sends to an actuary and have a more comprehensive monitoring system.

Better controls are becoming more important, auditors added, because Medicaid coverage is expanding under federal health care reforms and most people being added to the system will have managed care.

Spike strips used to stop Spokane driver

Spokane police officers used spike strips early Sunday to stop a suspected drunken driver who sped through residential areas of the Logan neighborhood with his headlights dimmed in an apparent escape attempt.

Leo Rodriguez, 33, was jailed before 6 a.m. Sunday on suspicion of driving under the influence, driving with a suspended license and attempting to elude police. Rodriguez drove erratically around 1:15 a.m. near Mission Avenue and Greene Street, according to court documents. When officers attempted a traffic stop, Rodriguez sped away in his Plymouth sedan, turning off his headlights in what police described as an attempt to escape.

Responding officers disabled Rodriguez’s car near the Witter Aquatic Center pool, according to a Spokane police news release. He attempted to run and scale a fence but was apprehended.

Two opportunities for ombudsman input

Spokane residents will have two chances this month to share their thoughts on who should serve on the city’s new Police Ombudsman Commission and how the panel should operate.

The comments will be used by Mayor David Condon and the City Council to guide their selections to the independent panel, which will be responsible for providing outside oversight of police discipline, according to the city. The goal is to have the five-member commission operating by this summer.

The hourlong meetings are scheduled for noon April 28 and 5 p.m. April 29 in the City Council Briefing Center at City Hall.

Man arrested after skateboard assault

A 20-year-old Spokane man was jailed on a second-degree assault with a deadly weapon charge after police say he attacked another man with a skateboard on a downtown street Sunday night.

Police arrested Kailer Carver just before 10 p.m., about three hours after investigators say he assaulted a man waiting for his girlfriend to get off work at the intersection of Second Avenue and South Howard Street. The man hit with the skateboard jumped up onto his girlfriend’s car to avoid Carver’s blows, according to court documents. Carver then smashed out a passenger window with his skateboard, a witness told police.

The man struck with the skateboard suffered minor injuries.

Expert on coal, oil shipping to appear

Terry Whiteside, an expert on rail shipping of northern tier coal and oil, will make three public appearances in the Inland Northwest this week.

Whiteside, of Billings, will appear at a briefing at Gonzaga University Law School at 2:30 p.m. today. He will be joined on a panel by Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart and others.

On Wednesday at 7:30 a.m., Whiteside will appear at the city library in Cheney.

At noon on Wednesday, he will be in Sandpoint for a lunch appearance at Di Luna’s Café at 207 Cedar St.

Whiteside is a principal author of a report, “Heavy Traffic Still Ahead,” that predicts a sharp rise in coal and oil shipments on Inland Northwest rails to existing or proposed port facilities.

The report shows that communities are not prepared for the increase in rail traffic and the risk of accidents and pollution.

To view the report, go to

Talk to focus on fossil fuel divestiture

Divesting portfolios from fossil fuels is the topic of a Thursday talk given by activist Jay Carmona.

The Kootenai Environmental Alliance is hosting Carmona for the noon discussion at the Iron Horse Restaurant, 407 E. Sherman Ave., Coeur d’Alene. The event is free and open to the public.

Carmona is the divestment campaign manager for, a climate action group founded by Bill McKibben. The group’s recent focus includes encouraging public institutions and pension funds to divest from companies that produce fossil fuels.

Carmona will be meeting with local university officials to discuss divesting while she’s in the area.