State: Timing of termination 'could have better'

Apr. 21, 2013 @ 01:14 PM

State officials said their notification of a contract termination between the Western Highlands Network and the state Division of Medical Assistance (DMA) could have been handled differently.

DMA issued a press release regarding the termination of its contract with the Western Highlands Network for providing 1915 (b)/(c) waivers before issuing any direct communication with Western Highlands regarding the termination. The release also contained no reasons for the termination.

Julie Henry, acting director of public affairs with the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) — the department with direct oversight of DMA — said the termination of the contract was "without cause" which is permissible under the terms of the contract.

She also admitted that the notification could have been handled differently.

"It did cause a lot of angst and uncertainty," Henry said. "I think the timing could have been better."

She said that there is an overriding goal related to the termination.

"I am aware of that there were a lot of concerns over how we handled the notification," Henry said. "I think the goal for the the future is getting the care to the clients that is needed."

Last week, county managers representing the eight counties served by the Western Highlands Network met with DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos and other DHHS officials to discuss the contract termination.

"They apologized and I think it was truly sincere," said Carl Classen, Rutherford County manager and treasurer for the Western Highlands Network board.

In a letter sent to county managers and state legislators on Friday, Wos did not discuss the notification but did say that current clients of Western Highlands will not see a change in providers during the "period of transition."

"Both consumers and providers will receive advance notice of any change and detailed information about the change," Wos said.

While the termination is without cause, Western Highlands' officials admitted the past financial struggles of the organization.

"While Western Highlands did experience financial losses of over $4 million during the first six months of Waiver operations, those losses have been reversed and we are projecting a surplus of over $2 million by June 30, 2013," said Charles A. Schoenheit, interim CEO of the Western Highlands Network, in a press release.

Schoenheit said that Western Highlands will "continue to execute all of our obligations and operations" under the contract and will keep "the communities we serve informed" of any potential changes during the transition process.