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State loan will pay area's caregiver bills

When Community Health Partners closed at the end of 2012, care providers across western Wisconsin were stuck with unpaid invoices for services provided in November and December.

According to Clark Schroeder, administrator of St. Croix Industries in New Richmond, many group homes and other facilities serving people with disabilities and the frail elderly were put in a financial bind.

"A lot of organizations had to take out loans to make payroll," Schroeder told the St. Croix County Health and Human Services Board at its regular Monday meeting.

On Friday, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services announced it would provide a $6 million loan to pay the bills owed by the bankrupt managed care organization. CHP managed the care for 2,700 frail elderly clients and people with disabilities under the state's Family Care program in St. Croix, Pierce, Dunn, Eau Claire and Chippewa counties.

Since its bankruptcy, CHP is being run by an attorney and a third-party administrator as the final bills are paid out.

The new managed care organization in western Wisconsin, Southwest Family Care Alliance, took over the administration of Family Care on Jan. 1. The new MCO is working with providers to create a sustainable financial model for future Family Care services.

Thomas Cook, executive director of Rehabilitation for Wisconsin in Action (RFW in Action), said that members of his association located in northwest Wisconsin had contacted a number of state legislators and the Department of Health Services requesting that action be taken to resolve the delay in payments.

"Our members needed to take out lines of credit to continue issuing paychecks to their employees who are responsible for providing long term care services," Cook said. "They were not only being saddled with additional interest costs, but were becoming concerned that some of the smaller businesses in the area might not survive a longer delay in payments. Thankfully, the Department of Health Services (DHS) found a way to loan money to the court receiver so that the backlog of payments can be resolved."

Dave Lemanski, vice president of the RFW in Action Board of Directors and CEO of Chippewa River Industries, gave thanks to the area legislators who had been contacted, including state senators Sheila Harsdorf and Kathleen Vinehout, as well as state representatives Kathy Bernier and Warren Petryk.

"We especially want to thank Department of Health Services Secretary Kitty Rhoades for taking decisive action to live up to the commitment to service providers that they would be paid after Community Health Partnership and CHP-LTS went out of business, which she made during legislative listening sessions held last fall," Lemanski said.