Optum Idaho

Boise State Public Radio

Idaho lawmakers have directed their staff to spend the next nine months studying the state’s contract with Optum Idaho, the company that manages outpatient behavioral health services for Medicaid patients.

Katherine Jones / Idaho Statesman

The company that manages mental health services for Idaho Medicaid patients is resuming a series of mental health trainings around the state. Optum has been doing what it calls mental health first aid classes for about a year. After taking a few months off, the classes begin in Weiser this Thursday.

Nearly one year after lawmakers and small business owners cast a critical eye at the contractor managing mental health and substance treatment for Idaho's poor, company officials say approval ratings remain high and problems are few.

Executives from Optum, a unit of UnitedHealth Group, told the House Health and Welfare Committee Wednesday that they had a 95 percent satisfaction rating among members who receive behavioral-health services under Medicaid.

That's according to the most recent sample survey the company sent out to their members.

Katherine Jones / Idaho Statesman

Roy Vopal didn’t expect to live at a Boise Rescue Mission shelter in Downtown Boise this year. But the 60-year-old had a serious knee injury, then surgery, that he said left him unable to work for the first time in his life.

“Mentally, it’s a mind-screw” to be out of work, Vopal said. “It definitely twists the brain.”

Vopal says his service in the Marines during the Vietnam War left him with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“There were times when I wanted my life to end,” Vopal said. He attempted suicide in his 30s and used drugs.

Becky diVittorio, Optum
Idaho Statesman

A federal agency is investigating whether the company Idaho hired to manage part of its Medicaid program has violated patient-privacy laws.

Optum Idaho, a unit of United Behavioral Health, took over insurance management for Idaho Medicaid's mental-health and substance-abuse patients last fall.

Local health-care providers who treat those patients say Optum has erroneously sent them reports meant for other providers. The reports show patient names and mental-health or substance-abuse services the patients received or were authorized by Optum to receive.

Darin Oswald / Idaho Statesman

The state’s effort to rein in Medicaid costs has created deep friction between small businesses that deliver behavioral-health services to Medicaid patients and a new contractor hired to manage them.

Service providers across Idaho have raised complaints over the last 11 months that the contractor, Optum Idaho, a unit of United Behavioral Health, has created red tape and cut services needed by at-risk patients.