Medicaid drops Houston's psych hospitals

As of yesterday, Houston's six stand-alone psychiatric hospitals will lose their Medicaid reimbursement, cutting off funding for treating many mentally-ill adults. The hospitals say that the cutoff will bar dozens of mentally-ill people a day from receiving treatment, because the psych wards in the region's acute-care hospitals often don't have space to take them in. "It's going to be a huge issue," said Dr. George Santos, medical director of freestanding psychiatric facility West Oaks Hospital. "They will be inadequately treated. They will be driven to crisis." Santos expects to see his facility lose $1.9 million per year, and will possibly end up closing a 20 bed unit.

Since 1998, Harris County has been paying for freestanding psych facilities through Medicaid managed care programs, treating an average of 75 patients per day. However, as of yesterday, inpatient hospital stays are going to be covered by indemnity Medicaid, which doesn't cover stand-along psych facilities. State officials said that they'd like to see the free-standing facilities get paid by indemnity Medicaid, but that their request for a CMS waiver had been denied. They've stopped short of agreeing to pay for the services directly out of other state funds, however.

For more about the Medicaid mental health situation:
- read this Houston Chronicle article