CHUBBUCK - Joseph Ryner was excited when Seasons of Hope hired him to perform psychosocial rehabilitation work in January and to work for Heath Sommer, a former instructor of his at Idaho State University.
"He was so dynamic" as an instructor, Ryner said. "I was so excited about getting a job working with him."
On Monday, however, Ryner was one of nearly 100 employees in Seasons of Hope laid off after the mental health and developmental therapy clinic's Medicaid provider status was suspended by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. The company serves people in American Falls, Blackfoot, Burley, Chubbuck, Idaho Falls, Preston and Twin Falls.
Now Ryner wonders whether he will ever see the three weeks of outstanding pay he is owed.
Sommer, a clinical psychologist and Seasons of Hope's owner and CEO, said he's also unsure when or whether he will be able to pay his former employees.
"We are trying to figure that out ourselves," Sommer said. "We are trying to exhaust every means we can to be able to pay our employees."
Health and Welfare began investigating Seasons of Hope about 18 months ago. It made a partial check of the operation's Medicaid billing from June 1, 2010 through January.
Sommer told the Idaho State Journal in Pocatello earlier this week that Health and Welfare officials assured him , throughout the process that he would be able to respond to their concerns before action was taken.
Last week, however, Sommer and Seasons of Hope were sent a 14-page letter.
It said the operation's Medicaid provider status had been suspended pending further investigation. It said the suspension would remain in place for five years if nothing happened to change that. That change in status means any Medicaid claims from Seasons of Hope that are in process will not be paid.
The state alleges the company altered records, misrepresented services and exceeded service limitations.
The state says Seasons of Hope also :
Æ Billed for noncovered services as covered services.
Æ Misrepresented services.
Æ Billed for services not documented.
Æ Billed for services not provided.
Æ Billed for medically unnecessary services.
In addition, Health and Welfare has told Seasons of Hope that more than $439,000 in Medicaid payments it deemed were overpayments must be repaid. The department also levied a $110,000 civil penalty. That means Sommer must pay $550,000 in all to Health and Welfare.
Tom Shanahan, a spokesman for Health and Welfare, told the Journal earlier this week that Seasons of Hope has 28 days to respond to the allegations within the letter.
Sommer said Health and Welfare acted abruptly.
"It's a terrible situation, because it not only affects me personally, it affects our recipients and it affects our employees," he said.
Ryner says he's now in jeopardy for several reasons.
Not only is he probably not going to see pay for the work he's done the past three weeks, but he's competing against a dozen other psychosocial rehabilitation workers for the two or three jobs now open locally.
"I don't even know how I am going to feed my family in April," he said.