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A report we'd like to see

December 11, 1998

A Sept. 2 letter from state auditors citing possible fraud in the local addictions unit's billing practices is old news, according to the head of the Washington County Health Department, who says state officials have since cleared the department of any wrongdoing.

To back up his contention that his department has received a clean bill of health, Dr. Robert Parker released a Nov. 23 letter from William Groseclose, chief of the state health department's division of internal audits. The letter says that as a result of a Nov. 16 meeting with Washington County officials "it appears that all our areas of concern are being addressed."

The letter goes on to say that "If the Health Department continues their efforts to resolve the errors in billing and record-keeping, and no additional problems develop, I do not anticipate any similar problems on our next audit."

From the local department's perspective, this is good, but it's not an exoneration, though Dr. Parker says he's requested a more detailed report from Groseclose, who hadn't returned our phone calls by press time.

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The case involves claims raised by Faith Toston, an addictions counselor, who claims that she was told to bill her clients' insurance companies as if the patients had been seen by a licensed social worker, which she is not.

For reporting what she considered a violation of the rules, Toston alleges retaliation by supervisors and co-workers. Parker says he can't comment on her "whistle blower" claims, but says a plan to transfer her to the night shift has been dropped because the position has already been filled by someone else.

How credible are her claims? Of 43 cases reviewed, the auditor found problems with 27 of them, involving overbilling, underbilling or the use of an ID number for a person other than the one who provided the client with services.

If only from the liability perspective, it should concern licensed social workers if treatment forms indicate that they've treated patients whose cases they really didn't handle. It sounds as if the department is on right track now, but like Parker, we'd like to see a more detailed report on how this matter was handled, from start to finish.

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