VAN BUREN, Ark. (KNWA) — Patients and providers say a state Medicaid program has caused months of frustration. Arkansas created the Passe program to help coordinate care for people with behavioral health issues or developmental disabilities. But instead, people around the state say this has only made things more complex.
Every step forward is an achievement for 5-year-old, Josie Nance.
“Josie is a medically complex child,” her mother Tiffany Nance said.
Josie Nance has Cerebral Palsy.
“She has some difficulty walking and pretty much close to no function in her left arm,” Tiffany Nance said.
Getting the care she needs, is a balancing act for the Nance family.
“She has a shot. She has a feeding tube. She has therapies daily,” Tiffany Nance said.
Arkansas’ new Passe program is meant to help.
“We were promised we would get our care team together so we could communicate Josie’s need all in a team basis rather than dealing with her primary care physician, her neurologist, her neurosurgeon,” Tiffany Nance explained. But she said that still has not happened.
“They were supposed to be dealing with paperwork and appointment scheduling and things like that for us that they have yet to do,” Tiffany Nance continued.
She said confusion when PASSE first launched even cost her family thousands.
“The first year on the formula, we ended up paying out of pocket for it, $900 a month. It was a big expense but it was something worth my kid’s life,” Tiffany Nance said.
It is not just the Nance family. Providers say their clients have had a hard time too.
“We’ve been working with all three of the PASSEs since that time,” Ozark Guidance CEO Dr. Laura Tyler said.
Ozark Guidance works with patients suffering from mental illness.
“For our fiscal year-end, we had a negative bottom line,” Tyler said.
That is because Tyler said payments are just now starting to come in for services provided back in March. Due to several issues early on in the program, providers submitted a list to lawmakers of dozens of problems they had with each one of the PASSEs. It includes issues such as “numerous front-end rejections”, “denied for no apparent reason” and “care coordinators not trained properly.”
State rep. Nicole Clowney
(D) District 86:
“I’ve heard from beneficiaries who lack access to formula that they rely on to survive, who lack access to mental health care, who are losing their primary care physicians that they’ve had for decades,” State Representative Nicole Clowney (D-District 86) said.
She was one of several lawmakers who attended a committee hearing in April where DHS was grilled about PASSE.
“Are we at the point where you all can fix this? Can you all fix this or is this something we have to address legislatively with a special session to go back to the way it was so these providers don’t shut down?” Senator Trent Garner (R-District 27) asked during that hearing.
DHS has worked to address those problems since then.
“To identify all of the issues that you’re talking about and to identify all of the progress that we’ve made that we have out there on our website so that people can view that,” Paula Stone with the Division of Medical Services said.
KNWA asked officials at DHS about the number of complaints today.
“We do what we can to mediate that situation and get involved and monitor it to make sure it’s being corrected, but we have seen a substantial decline in calls coming through,” Director of Developmental Disability Services Melissa Stone said.
But Clowney is not satisfied.
“I will say I have very serious concerns and that I’m hearing as many concerns today that I was hearing six months and a year ago and that makes me very uncomfortable,” she said.
The Nances are holding onto hope.
“I have a lot of hope that hopefully within the next year they’ll get their things together and we’ll see some improvement and maybe they’ll actually do what they say,” Tiffany Nance said.
Lawmakers plan to meet again in the fall to discuss some of the ongoing issues. DHS says it plans to hold focus groups in the next couple of months to get feedback. Open enrollment for PASSE is in October.