Minority-owned group to trim programs, staff

State notes difficulty in Medicare claims

Health care

May 20, 2000|By M. William Salganik | M. William Salganik,SUN STAFF

Urban Behavioral Associates, which described itself as "the largest single-specialty minority-owned psychiatric group on the East Coast," has laid off some of its staff and is closing programs in Prince George's County.

UBA has had difficulty submitting claims for treating Medicaid patients in a timely manner, said Oscar Morgan, director of mental hygiene for the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. The state health department administers the Medicaid program.

With Medicaid as an important payer, delayed claims could create cash-flow problems for UBA, which has its headquarters and operates a number of programs in Baltimore.

While Morgan said he was not sure of the extent of the layoffs, some former employees estimated the number at 50 of perhaps 100 total employees. The employees asked not to be named, saying they were still waiting to receive back pay.

Dr. Orlando R. Davis, the psychiatrist who founded UBA in 1994 and is its president and chairman, did not return several calls seeking comment.

The former employees said they began having problems with late paychecks in February. The layoffs and some staff resignations came late last month and early this month.

Morgan said Davis had told the health department "he's committed to paying anybody he's laid off, and that he will stay in business, perhaps with reduced staff." He said the health department was working with UBA to refer patients to other therapists, and that UBA was continuing to care for the patients, particularly those needing medication, during the transition.

Under the Medicaid program, the state uses Maryland Health Partners, a unit of Columbia-based Magellan Behavioral Health, to process and pay claims.

When providers submit a "clean claim" to Maryland Health Partners, they are generally paid in 14 days, Morgan said. In the case of UBA, he continued, "some claims have not been submitted, and some have been denied because they were submitted incorrectly."

According to its Web site, UBA is a 75-member provider group that includes psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses, counselors and an acupuncturist. The Web site lists about a dozen locations in Baltimore where UBA provides services.

Sun staff writer Patricia Meisol contributed to this article.

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