Ohio home health aides angry about state computer error

Health aides not paid since July

SHEFFIELD TOWNSHIP, Ohio - Many Ohio health care workers are working for free these days.

"A lot of us have been working almost a whole month without pay," said Missy Pratt, a home health aide at Sheffield Vistas, an independent living facility in Sheffield Township.

Pratt said she is one of the lucky ones. "I work for four people and I'm only getting paid for one right now."

"I got paid two cents this week," said Kelli Justice, one of Pratt's co-workers. She said she had to ask her parents for money so she could buy school supplies for her children.

"That's not settling to hear they're working on it when you get up in the morning on pay day and there's nothing there," said Justice.

The state's new health care computer systems, known as MITS -- Medicaid Information Technology System -- has caused some providers' claims to be erroneously denied, according to Ben Johnson, a state spokesperson Ben Johnson. He said the state is rushing payments to those providers.

NewsChannel5 first broke this story on Wednesday, after viewers contacted us complaining about problems with MITS. NewsChannel5 also obtained e-mails written by state workers that showed the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) is aware there are problems with the MITS.

One e-mail described how people in the Medicare Savings Program were accidentally kicked off the program's rolls. A state worker wrote, "The state 'auto closed' about 1,000 cases from Cuyahoga County."

Another e-mail described how the workers were kicked off the rolls. It said, "The data just did not cross over to the billing system."

Ohio adopted the new Medicare and Medicaid billing system Aug. 2. Since then, NewsChannel5 and U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) have received numerous complaints about problems with MITS, including patients wrongfully terminated from their Medicaid plan and providers who have gone without payments.

Several Medicaid patients have also complained they are unable to fill their prescriptions.

The patients said MITS will not let their pharmacists bill Medicaid for their medications.

Mindi Wertz contacted NewsChannel5 after she was unable to get life-saving medications for diabetes and blood pressure.

"It's broken. It's terrible. I think people that need Medicare and Medicaid contribute to society in a lot of ways and they're not getting the respect they deserve," Wertz said.

Kucinich was scheduled to meet with Donald Berwick, the administrator for the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, in Washington D.C. Tuesday afternoon.

Among other things, Kucinich wants federal inspectors sent to Ohio to investigative and fix any problems with MITS.

Johnson said no one was kicked out of the Medicare Savings Program. He said MITS requires participants to re-enroll and that many people may not been aware or re-enrolled before MITS went online Aug. 2.

Johnson said ODJFS has doubled the number of customer services representatives answer patient and provider questions. He also said ODJFS will soon start offering free webinars twice a day to teach providers, patients and pharmacists how to use the system.

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