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State pays up for flood of Medicaid calls

/ Source: The Associated Press

Missouri's social service agency reimbursed a Montana businesswoman $223 for having to field more than 1,000 calls after it mistakenly listed her toll-free number on letters to Medicaid recipients.

The letter, mailed last August to 339,000 adult Medicaid recipients, listed Sharon Curtiss-Rivera's business phone as the hot line for hearing- and speech-impaired people whose services were being cut.

Instead of simply hanging up, Curtiss-Rivera said Wednesday that she listened to some callers as they described their medical woes and expressed frustration and confusion that they would no longer be covered.

It "started off to be horrifying, but I feel like it turned into a positive thing," she said in telephone interview. "I felt like I did some nice things for quite a few people."

Curtiss-Rivera's bill shows she received 1,015 phone calls — consuming just shy of 13 hours of her time — from August through February, with nearly three-quarters of those calls coming in August.

The invoice included $31 for the phone calls and $192 for her time.

Curtiss-Rivera, of Columbia Falls, Mont., runs a company called Hawkstone Productions, which books concerts and sells music for American Indian folk singer Jack Gladstone.

A social services spokeswoman said the agency regrets the inconvenience to Curtiss-Rivera and to Medicaid recipients and is pleased to reimburse her.