Texas psych clinics take Medicare’s millions without oversight

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism, and he has blogged for Covering Health ever since.

The Houston Chronicle‘s Terri Langford reports that for-profit outpatient psychiatric clinics in the state, most located around Houston, are collecting millions in Medicare dollars yet “require no license to operate in Texas.”

She writes that, despite access to significant federal funds, the clinics are subject to little oversight from any level of government, especially when it comes to patient care.

…other than a one time inspection conducted by Medicare when clinics start operating – these programs have no detailed standards or “conditions of participation,” that must be met before filing claims and collecting taxpayer money.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services flagged the problem earlier this year, saying “no regulatory basis exists to ensure basic levels of quality and safety” for CMHC care.

The loopholes, including the lack of an established means to kick poorly performing centers out of the medicare system, apply nationwide, but their exploitation remains localized.

Records show that in 2009, Medicare paid $287 million on these programs nationwide, 74 percent of them located in the three states that have no state licensing requirements: Florida, Louisiana and Texas.

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