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Temporary financial aid for group home residents on fast track

UPDATEDLegislators on Thursday began moving a bill that will provide temporary funding for mentally disabled people living in group homes, who were no longer eligible for Medicaid reimbursement for personal care services due to a change in the law last year that unintentionally excluded them.

House Bill 5 will head to the House floor for a vote this afternoon, and then be sent to the Senate, where quick action is also expected.

Perdue vows fix for group home residents

Gov. Bev Perdue said she will work with the legislature to keep up to 2,000 people with mental disabilities from being turned out of their group homes this winter -- including the possibility of a special session.

On Jan. 1, changing Medicaid rules means that most group home residents will no longer qualify for government-paid personal care services. Medicaid reimbursements for personal care pay about one-third of group home costs.

Perdue said on Thursday that she was "distressed" over the prospect of mentally disabled people without places to live.

Former DHHS secretary's new clients familiar to agency

Former DHHS secretary Lanier Cansler has started a new consulting firm, Cansler Collaborative Resources.

He has two contracts so far, one with Community Care North Carolina, the state's Medicaid managed care system, and the other with the N.C. Assisted Living Association. He's working on the issue of personal care services and adult care homes for the association.  

Cansler has deep knowledge of both those groups. He's worked closely with Community Care for years, and was at DHHS while the state Medicaid office negotiated new personal care rules with federal regulators.  

Cansler, who left the department last month, drew some unwanted attention for work he did during his last stint as a consultant. His department ended up buying an expensive new Medicaid billing system from a company he worked for. 

Cansler said this time around he's not going to work state officials on his clients' behalf. 

Cansler said he told clients he'd go to Washington D.C. or other states, but not to expect him to be their in-state negotiator. 

"I'm not going to be involved with meetings with folks in North Carolina, or the legislature, or the agency," he said. "That's not what I want to do."

Feds to DHHS: repay $1.3 million

The state must repay the federal government $1.3 million for Medicaid money misspent on ineligible in-home care services.

A federal audit of claims from Shipman Family Home Care's Greensboro office found that 56 of 100 sample items did not meet state and federal requirements for Medicaid reimbursement. 

The audit looked at claims from July 1, 2005 to June 30, 2007 that were paid by the state and federal insurance program for the poor and disabled.

The deficiencies occurred because the state does not have enough resources to properly monitor Shipman's personal care program, the report said.

In its formal response, Shipman said the findings did not represent its overall compliance efforts.

In his written response, state Department of Health and Human Services secretary Lanier Cansler said the state has stepped up monitoring of home care agencies in general, and has a state-approved plan to target the services to people who are most in need.

The federal government has not approved the changes.

The office is also auditing services at randomly selected Shipman sites, Cansler wrote.

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