Nutritionist in fraud case ordered to repay $178,000

September 27, 2008|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

A nutritionist convicted of fraudulent Medicaid billing was sentenced to five years of probation and ordered to pay back about $178,000.

Olusola Idowu of Sani Lane in Hagerstown, whose business was called SSS Nutrition Services, also was sentenced to six years in prison, but the time was suspended, court records show.

Washington County Circuit Judge Donald E. Beachley sentenced Idowu on Sept. 16, but the Maryland attorney general's office, which prosecuted the case, didn't announce the outcome until Friday.

Idowu, 55, who practiced in Hagerstown and Silver Spring, Md., said in a phone interview she is not guilty of fraud.


"It was a contractual issue ...," she said Friday. "I didn't do anything outside the contract."

In July, a jury convicted Idowu of one count of defrauding state health care, one count of theft-scheme of more than $500 and three counts of false or misleading information-fraud of more than $300.

An attorney general's office press release says Idowu "routinely billed Amerigroup, a Medicaid agent, and three private insurers using the highest paying office visit billing code reserved only for doctors performing consultations."

Using that code "hundreds of times" from 2002 to 2006, Idowu told insurers she saw each client for 80 minutes even though each visit was generally 30 minutes or less, the press release says.

With that code, she collected between $177 and $186 per 15 minutes instead of $15 for 15 minutes under a proper code for nutritional services, the release says.

Idowu must pay $107,331 to Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene recoveries; $53,228 to CareFirst; $13,256 to Aetna; and $4,512 to Great West.

Idowu said she treated obese people through a contract with Amerigroup. She said she didn't claim to be a doctor and the code she used wasn't fraudulent.

She faxed a copy of a letter from J. Craig Busey, a general counsel for the American Dietetic Association, to her lawyer that says the use of some Medicaid codes "has often been imprecise and problematic."

Some codes specified for physicians have been used by other health care providers, "especially where there were gaps in the coding system or where particular insurance plan payers have been slow to specify or accept codes that might be more appropriate," the letter says.

Citing one particular code, Busey wrote that its use by dietitians doesn't appear "wrongful or inappropriate, let alone fraudulent."

The Herald-Mail Articles