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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Eye On Boise

Complaints about Optum mount at listening hearing…

Complaints about Optum, an Idaho Health & Welfare contractor for outpatient behavioral health under Medicaid, have continued to mount at this morning’s public hearing on Health & Welfare issues. Doug Loertscher, who owns and operates two mental health agencies in Boise and Nampa, said contacting Optum means staying on hold for five hours. “Currently we have about 50 individuals waiting for services to be obtained in our agency,” he said. “In reality, they probably need to add more like 30 new care managers in order to keep up.” He also said after he testified to a legislative committee earlier, Optum contacted him about his testimony; he asked lawmakers to protect those citizens who come and testify from retaliation.

Darcy Moreno, a provider in the Treasure Valley, said she’s seen numerous canceled appointments, including for children with severe neglect or abandonment issues, as providers try to get prior authorization from Optum to continue providing services. “That’s unacceptable,” she said.

Jessica Chilcott, a licensed social worker who provides case management services in Bonner, Boundary and Kootenai counties, said, “I’m here because I’m frustrated. … I personally spent 10 and a half hours on hold in the last five business days without being able to speak to an Optum representative. I’m aware my experience is not unusual.” She said Optum has told her to provide services for which she won’t be paid, and her agency has four parents who have been “told by their employers that they are at risk of losing their jobs if they take any more meetings dealing with their children.” She said, “I’ve spoken with multiple professionals who are no longer able to make a living as mental health providers in Idaho. I’m asking that the ability to do my job be restored.”

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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