Protesters accuse Hopkins of withholding Medicaid funds

The owner of a Baltimore substance abuse center led a protest of more than 120 people Thursday morning at the doors of Johns Hopkins Hospital, saying the medical giant owes his organization more than $100,000 in Medicaid payments.

The Rev. Milton E. Williams, who operates the Turning Point Substance Abuse Clinic in East Baltimore, said his organization had provided hundreds of patients with free care because a Hopkins affiliate has not reimbursed it for treating Medicaid patients.

The Hopkins affiliate, Priority Partners, is one of several managed-care organizations that has a contract with the state to manage Medicaid claims. Much like an insurance company, Priority Partners pays clinics, doctors, hospitals and other organizations that treat Medicaid patients.

Williams said Priority Partners will not reimburse it for costs to assess and conduct drug evaluations on new patients.

"We are here to make our voices heard," Williams roared to the protesters, including many recovering addicts. "Friends, everyone needs to know the hypocrisy of the world's greatest health care institution."

The group said it has tried more than a year to get the unpaid funds, but Hopkins has resisted.

Hopkins officials would not answer questions on whether Priority Partners withheld payments from the clinic. The hospital said in a statement it had recently ended its partnership with the substance abuse treatment organization.

"We're disappointed that Rev. Williams chooses to voice his dissent in very public and unproductive ways." Hopkins said in a statement. "We strive to help our members pursue quality treatment in a professional environment, and we regret any inconvenience this may cause for them."

Williams said he also had tried to work with the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which oversees the Medicaid program, with no luck. He accused the state of being afraid of Hopkins' influence and "political punch."

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said the department had never been contacted about problems receiving payment.

The protesters arrived in a caravan of white vans beeping their horns as they approached the front of the facility. They carried signs that read "Don't Stand in Our Way" and "Get Out of My Way of Recovery."

Many of the protesters are recovering addicts who credit Turning Point for their transformation. They worry the clinic will not be able to help so many people if it is not completely reimbursed for care.

Romaine Vance said she started using heroin in college during parties and quickly found herself addicted. The 40-year-old said she tried many times to quit. It was only Turning Point's holistic approach to treatment that worked, she said.

"It wasn't just the addiction and drugs," Vance said. "I was beaten up inside. That is why I am here today protesting. They helped me, so I am helping them."

Williams said his group will continue to protest Hopkins.

"Even though Medicaid will pay for their care, these folks can't receive treatment because you, 'Big John,' keep their money instead of paying Turning Point for their treatment," Williams said. ankwalker

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