Thursday, October 24, 2013

MAS Involved In CIA Incident

(C) 2013 Luke T. Bush



If you write about governmental agencies and programs you end up wading deep in alphabet soup.  A person with lesser resolve would just give up, exclaiming "OMG!"  (Not to be confused with OMIG.)

This article will try to focus mainly on two initialisms: MAS and CIA.  Maybe that focus will make this piece QED for both writer and reader.

MAS is short for Medical Answering Services, LLC, a private company based in Syracuse that has been scheduling transportation to medical appointments for Clinton County Medicaid clients since September 1st.  Clients have encountered problems with MAS acting as a central contact/call center as noted in previous articles at this blog.

Doing a little background research I found that MAS ended up being involved in a CIA incident.

No, I'm not talking about the spy agency in Langley, Virginia.  CIA in this case refers to a Corporate Integrity Agreement that MAS signed after it encountered some trouble with a Medicaid probe back in 2009 while operating in Onondaga County.

Reporter Jim Kenyon of The CNY Central news site provided details on that probe in an article posted on January 22, 2010 headlined "Syracuse company stung by Medicaid probe."  The article summarized how The New York State Office of Medicaid Inspector General (OMIG) found through its investigation that MAS didn't have the authorization to bill Medicaid on the behalf of transportation vendors.

The article said MAS had to pay back $80,000 and also sign a Corporate Integrity Agreement.  A copy of the CIA can be found here.  The 27 page (plus three page Appendix) document (dated 12/18/2009) between MAS and the NYS Office of the Medicaid Inspector General is very detailed, covering areas such as training, written standards (Code of Conduct), and self disclosure (e.g., overpayments).

The CIA preamble states that the purpose of the agreement is "to promote compliance by MAS and its employees and agents with the requirements of the New York State medical assistance program."

Sounds reasonable.  Compliance to standards should be expected by any private company working with the state.  And what applied in 2009 should apply now.

Except that the CIA between MAS and OMIG expired on December 22, 2012.

So how did the Medicaid probe come about?  Were New York State officials keeping an eye on the henhouse?  Did an investigative reporter ask why the fox guarding the henhouse was coughing up feathers?  (Figuratively speaking, of course.)

No, the efforts of advocate/blogger Anne C Woodlen initiated the probe.  She encountered problems with both Medical Answering Services and Onondaga County officials.  The CNY Central article mentioned above includes a synopsis by Anne in which she discusses what she says were acts of retaliation by MAS and Onondaga County while she pushed the matter.

In a press release from the governor's office dated August 15, 2013, Governor Cuomo announced that MAS was expanding its operations in Syracuse, creating new jobs.  He praised MAS for saving state and local governments around $1 million per month in Medicaid expenditures – except, I must note, $80,000 at one point.  Odd: no mention by the guv of the CIA between MAS and OMIG.

Hopefully there won't be any more BS with MAS.

Related articles at this blog:

     "NYS Official Deflects Criticisms Of Private Company"

     "MAS Vendor Training Issue Addressed"

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