From the September 4 Insider:
FUNDING CUT: The federal government has announced that it will not pay Medicare or Medicaid expenses for patients at the state psychiatric hospital serving western North Carolina, saying administrators failed to make adequate safety improvements after a patient’s death while being restrained. The state Department of Health and Human Services said Friday that federal officials will not pay for patients admitted to the hospital in Morganton on or after Aug. 25. Payments will continue for 30 days for patients in the hospital by that date, the department said.
It's believed to be the first time one of the state's four psychiatric hospitals has been denied Medicaid and Medicare payments, said Jim Osberg, chief overseer of the hospitals for the state. Federal funding amounting to $1 million a month could resume, should federal inspectors approve safety changes. State officials said a federal review will take at least 30 days. The federal government’s action stems from the Feb. 1 death of a patient identified in records as Anthony Dawayne Lowery. An autopsy report said Lowery, who had a history of schizophrenia, died of asphyxia after a 300-pound staff member sat on his torso for two or three minutes.
The development is the latest blow for North Carolina’s battered mental health system. A reform plan, started in 2003 to get people out of state-run hospitals and back into the community, has resulted in a series of rate cuts that have meant less money for local providers. The cuts have the potential for sending more people to the state’s hospitals as providers scale back their services or get out of the business all together. Western North Carolina has already lost one provider -- ARC N.C. Officials say Broughton will continue to accept Medicaid and Medicare patients and find other sources of money to pay for treatment. (Jon Ostendorff, ASHEVILLE CITIZEN-TIMES, 9/01/07; THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 8/31/07)