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Maine AG: State Appealing Riverview Decision
10/16/2013   Reported By: Mal Leary

Maine Attorney General Janet Mills says the state is appealing an administrative ruling by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that eliminated federal funding for the Riverview psychiatric hospital in Augusta. But as Mal Leary reports, the appeal is in limbo due to the partial government shutdown.

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The state was notified last month that it had not met requirements for continued Medicare funding for the hospital, which meant the loss of about $20 million a year. That is about half the budget for the facility and poses a serious financial problem for the state.

Attorney General Janet Mills says her office has carefully reviewed the CMS documents and interpretation of federal laws and rules. She says the state believes CMS is in error in its interpretation.

"We frankly didn't see where those regulations required complete separation of all staff at all times, all equipment at all times, all records and all medications at all times, between the certified part of the hospital, the biggest part, and the small non-certified part of Riverview," Mills says.

The appeal sent in on Friday notes that the federal government had already found that the state had resolved earlier objections to operations at Riverview, but then went on to conclude that the state was still out of compliance. Mills says CMS never raised objections to the state's plan to separate out part of the hospital to handle forensic patients, and she says there is nothing in federal law or rules that require the total separation, as indicated in the September CMS decision.

"It's in nobody's interest - not the federal government's interest, not the state government's interest, not the Democratic Party or Republican Party or anybody else's interest - to minimize, to decrease services to this very needy population," she says.

But with most of the CMS staff on furlough as a result of the partial federal government shutdown, Mills is not sure the appeal has been received, let alone when it will be heard by an administrative law judge.

"I can't tell you if they got their mail, if they opened their mail, if somebody is docketing it as we speak, or whether someone is putting it on a scheduling order, or whether we will hear back from them this week or this month," Mills says. "I just can't say."

Meanwhile, the state is no longer receiving federal funds and has to pay for patients with state funds. In the stat's letter, Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew is asking for an expedited appeal.

Photo:  Mal Leary


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