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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Eye On Boise

Optum problems: ‘We had a client burn his family’s house down’

Close to 30 people testified at today’s Health & Welfare listening hearing, and complaints about Health & Welfare behavioral health contractor Optum topped the list of concerns. “We had a client burn his family’s house down,” Nikki Tangen told lawmakers. “We can’t call Optum and get services. … Now we’re out of time.” She said, “Our request is that Optum immediately lift the reqirement to have prior authorization, and then we’ll be able to serve the clients that we have,” including those just released from the state’s mental hospitals. The requirement should be lifted until the firm actually has a way to handle the requests, she said.

House Health & Welfare Chairman Fred Wood, R-Burley said, “Optum health care will appear before the House Health & Welfare Committee, it’s already scheduled for next week. The public testimony portion of that is today. We heard you loud and clear, and we have scheduled an entire two-hour period for Optum and the department to be in front of the House Health & Welfare Committee next week, and we will see if we can’t get to the bottom of some of the issues that you have.” He added, “I want to thank all of you for coming today. I know some of you came a long way. We did hear you, and we’ll do our best to help you to the best of our abilities.”

Senate Health & Welfare Chairman Lee Heider, R-Twin Falls, said the Senate committee, too, is bringing Optum representatives in. “We are working with Optum to try and resolve the issues there,” he said.

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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