I’m pretty critical of greedy, profit-hungry corporations but this week I have to side with mental health providers who had their reimbursement rates slashed 33% by the state health and human services officials. After reviewing an audit, state officials decided that the $60 per hour charged by mental health providers for community support services was excessive and retroactively reduced the rate that the state will pay to $40 per hour. This was a knee-jerk reaction by state officials. Maybe the current rate is too high, maybe it is excessive in relation to the cost of providing services, maybe changes are called for but not in the manner by which they were done. As Chris Fitzsimon pointed out in his Monday column:
Even if state officials believed cutting the reimbursement rate for the services was the right thing to do, why not announce it 60 days in advance and allow public comment?
The state’s actions last week were unfair. More importantly, they set a bad precedent for doing business with our state government. When the state acts in bad faith, service providers will do the same. Nobody wins. If privatization is going to work at all, the state and the service providers are going to have to play fair with each other.
Right now, the trust has been broken between the state, the providers and the mental health patients; it needs to be rebuilt. We could start by having an honest and public discussion about North Carolinas mental health needs and what it actually costs to provide mental health services of all types. It’s the fair thing to do.