Up & Coming Weekly

March 02, 2021

Up and Coming Weekly is a weekly publication in Fayetteville, NC and Fort Bragg, NC area offering local news, views, arts, entertainment and community event and business information.

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WWW.UPANDCOMINGWEEKLY.COM MARCH 3-9, 2021 UCW 11 State auditor finds a bevy of unlicensed providers receive Medicaid funds by JOHNNY KAMPIS An audit released by State Auditor Beth Wood's office Feb. 18, found the state Depart- ment of Health and Human Services did a poor job of gatekeeping the Medicaid Provider Enrollment process. e auditor's office says HHS didn't properly ensure that only qualified providers were ap- proved to provide services to Medicaid ben- eficiaries and to get payments from the state's Medicaid program. HHS didn't identify those providers who had professional licenses sus- pended or terminated so they could remove them from the program, the audit said. Furthermore, the audit found that HHS didn't ensure its contractor General Dynamics Information Technology verified all profes- sional credentials and provider ownership information during the enrollment re-verifica- tion process. Auditors sampled 191 approved applications and found that 185 of them never had their professional credentials verified. "e Department of Health and Human Services does not check any credentials during this reverification process. None," Wood said in a video accompanying the audit. Examiners discovered that of 66 Medicaid providers disciplined by their licensing board in fiscal 2019, 26 had their license suspended or terminated. HHS only removed eight of the 26 from the Medicaid program. e reasons for the suspended or termi- nated licenses ranged from substance abuse to sexual misconduct to a felony conviction related to health-care fraud. ese errors increased the risk that ill- equipped providers could receive millions of dollars in improper payments, the audit said. Such neglect is a big deal across the country: e Government Accountability Office report- ed that non-compliance with provider screen- ing and enrollment requirements among the states contributed to more than a third of the $36.3 billion in estimated improper payments in 2018. States are required to screen and enroll Medicaid providers in accordance with standards set by the U.S. Centers for Medi- care and Medicaid Services to help combat waste, fraud, and abuse of the system. It's also a matter of safety, as Wood's office said that some providers on the Medicaid rolls lost their licenses due to patient deaths. e audit said that unlicensed providers received $1.64 million in Medicaid payments in North Carolina during fiscal 2020. Providers lacking proper credentials got $11.2 in funds that year. Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of HHS, said in a response included with the audit that she agrees with the findings, and the department has removed ineligible providers and is work- ing to recoup improper payments. "Ensuring that we enroll and maintain only qualified providers to care for the beneficiaries is a fundability responsibility of the Medicaid program," she wrote. "I have directed our Med- icaid program leadership to make the issues identified in the report a top priority." NEWS JOHNNY KAMPIS, Carolina Journal News Service. COMMENTS? editor@upand- comingweekly.com. 910-484-6200. ANDREW DUNN, Carolina Journal News Service. COMMENTS? editor@ upandcomingweekly.com. 910-484-6200. N.C. cities pass nondiscrimination ordinances without bathroom policies by ANDREW DUNN Five years after House Bill 2 put North Caro- lina at the center of national controversy, cities in the state's liberal enclaves are once again discussing discrimination and the LGBT com- munity. Six cities and counties in North Carolina have passed ordinances that designate sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes, and LGBT advocates are now pushing two dozen more to follow suit. But the new ordinances studiously avoid the flashpoint of 2016 — bathroom policy for transgender people. Both LGBT advocates and the General Assembly appear hesitant to wade back in to that debate. e six new ordinances are nearly identical and largely symbolic. ey prohibit businesses from denying services or employment based on sexual orientation or gender identity, as well as federally protected classes like race, re- ligion, sex and disability. Several also include prohibitions against discrimination based on hairstyles "commonly associated with race or national origin." Under most of the new ordinances, violators can be charged with a misdemeanor and fined $500 per day. ese moves renew a debate that began in 2016, when the city of Charlotte passed a sweeping nondiscrimination ordi- nance that protected gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation. More con- troversially, Charlotte's ordinance also allowed people to use the bathroom of the gender with which they identify, a measure aimed at mak- ing transgender people more comfortable. Opponents feared that people would abuse the ordinance to illicitly use women's bath- rooms and changing facilities. Legal experts also said Charlotte's ordinance essentially out- lawed separate men's and women's restrooms. In response, the General Assembly passed and then-Gov. Pat McCrory signed House Bill 2, a measure that undid Charlotte's ordinance and required people to use the bathroom of their biological sex in public buildings. e law touched off a national firestorm. e NBA moved its All-Star Game planned for Charlotte out of state, businesses canceled expansions and entertainers canceled performances as a form of protest. Gov. Roy Cooper campaigned for office on repealing H.B. 2, and did so in March 2017. e repeal bill included a provision that cit- ies could not pass nondiscrimination ordi- nances, a provision with a sunset in December 2020. Hillsborough became the first N.C. city to pass a nondiscrimination ordinance since the sunset, on Jan. 11. Carrboro, Chapel Hill, Dur- ham, Greensboro, and Orange County quickly followed suit. Mecklenburg County has passed a resolu- tion professing support for the LGBT commu- nity but has not yet considered an ordinance. Organizations like the N.C. Family Policy Council and the N.C. Values Coalition have lined up against the new ordinances, saying they violate women's privacy and could harm religious institutions and faith-based busi- nesses. For example, churches or mosques would not be able to take sexual orientation or gender identity into account when hiring even if their religious doctrine spoke to the matter. General Assembly leaders have been rela- tively quiet on the new ordinances but have indicated they will not act unless these poten- tial problems become widespread. A spokesman for Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, declined to com- ment. In an interview with Spectrum News, Berger said that any next steps would come from private legal actions if small business owners felt their religious liberty in jeopardy — not a new law. "e courts are probably the appropriate forum for us to look at," he said.

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