Medicaid patients still await in-home services four months after SynCare collapse
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Medicaid patients still await in-home services four months after SynCare collapse

Date: December 13, 2011
By: Jenner Smith
State Capitol Bureau

It's been four months since the Missouri Health Department split with SynCare, yet thousands of the state's elderly and disabled still await their in-home services.
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Wrap: 58-year-old Patricia Williams battles six medical conditions. Yet she waited nearly four months to receive her in-home Medicaid services from the state. -- Until my call about her in-home care prompted her to go to the attorney general for help --

Williams said she couldn't wait any longer.

Actuality:  JJS6.WAV
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Description: "I’m not able to put up with it, and I’m not. If they ain’t gonna give me services, I wish they would tell me!"

Williams finally received her in-home services the first week of December. But she's the exception.

It's not that the state isn't providing direct medical care services. Rather, the issue is whether these thousands of Missouri Medicaid patients are eligble to receive in-home care avoiding moving into a residential care facility.

And while Williams went without her in-home services, her medical conditions got worse ...  

Actuality:  JJS7.WAV
Run Time:  00:15
Description: "Look at my legs ... I’ve got cellulitis in them, arthritis, neuropathy, the works ... and I have a heart problem on top of that. So how do they expect me to do this all myself? I can't."

Williams first began receiving her daily in-home services last January ... right around the time the Missouri Health Department hired SynCare. SynCare is a private contracting company that was hired to help the state provide in-home Medicaid assessments. 

However, the state charges SynCare failed to do its job. Missouri fired the Indianapolis-based company -- but it left Williams and thousands of other in-home patients without their services.

Williams' services ended in August when the state stopped sending her aid without notice.

Patricia Williams' niece April reaccounts her phone conversation with a Health Department representative.

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Description: "'We will get to you when we get to you. We will deal with you when we want to deal with you,' is pretty much the attitude that she had."

Regarding the pending assessments, HomeCare of Mid-Missouri Executive Director Diane Noah says her private in-home care company has the resources to help with the backlog of patients. Yet the state refuses to accept the help.

Noah says she doesn't understand why the department won't allow her or other private companies to provide assessments.  

Actuality:  NOAH.WAV
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Description: "I, I don’t know why. I don’t understand why. I don’t know why they have not gone back to allowing providers to do those assessments to help these people at least get up and running."

Missouri Health Department Director Margaret Donnelly did not directly answer questions similar to Noah's during two House committee meetings.
The Health Department director has also refused to answer my questions since September.
Donnelly told a House committee in November that the department was considering hiring another third-party contractor like  SynCare to get rid of the backlog.
A lobbyist for the Missouri Council for In-Home Services, Scott Penman, says hiring another contractor won't solve the problem.

Actuality:  PENMAN.WAV
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Description: "The concept is not workable. I don't think we need another trial balloon affecting our senior citizens and disabled population who are trying to stay at home to see if another company just maybe doesn't screw it up as badly."

Penman has testified in front of a House committee regarding the state's failing to provide sufficient in-home care services.  

Battlefield Representative Thomas Long serves on one of the House committees searching for solutions.

The Southwest Republican representative says the department has not acted quickly enough to address the problem. 


Actuality:  LONG1.WAV
Run Time:  00:10
Description: "This is not going away. These people are still hurting, they’re still suffering health-wise and maybe even dying because we’re not doing what we should be doing as a state."

For now, thousands of the Missouri's elderly and disabled patients without in-home care will just have to wait. 

Reporting from the state Capitol, I'm Jenner Smith.