L.A. County Official Calls for Review of Drug Treatment Clinics
A member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has called for a review of the county's authority over taxpayer-funded drug treatment clinics and its ability to stop payments to such facilities when they commit fraud, the Los Angeles Times' "L.A. Now" reports.
The move comes in response to a yearlong investigation by CNN and the Center for Investigative Reporting, which found that several drug treatment centers in Southern California that receive Medi-Cal funding have participated in fraudulent billing practices.
Medi-Cal is California's Medicaid program (Mehta, "L.A. Now," Los Angeles Times, 8/8).
Details of CIR/CNN Investigation
For the CIR/CNN investigation, the news groups reviewed thousands of pages of government records and conducted dozens of interviews with counselors, patients and regulators.
Investigators found that $94 million has been awarded over the past two years through the Drug Medi-Cal Treatment Program to 56 clinics in Southern California that have engaged in fraudulent activities, such as:
- Diagnosing people with addictions they did not have;
- Collecting state residents with mental illnesses from board-and-care centers to receive therapy from which they could not benefit;
- Enticing individuals from the street with cash, cigarettes and food; and
- Persuading patients to sign in for days they did not visit the clinics.
The $94 million represents half of all public funding for the Drug Medi-Cal program.
The CIR/CNN investigation raised concerns about the oversight of drug rehab clinics in the state, including:
- The frequency of inspections; and
- Regulators' failure to act when signs of possible fraudulent activity were discovered.
According to investigators, 12 clinics that were found to have engaged in fraudulent activity under the Drug Medi-Cal program were allowed to remain in business and awarded additional public funding (California Healthline, 8/2).
Since the findings were released, state officials have stopped payments to 38 companies that operate 108 drug treatment clinics in California, according to "L.A. Now."
Details of Call for L.A. County Review
Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky (D) has introduced a motion that would require attorneys and auditors to issue a report within 30 days about the county's oversight of the centers.
The motion also would direct the county to:
- Perform an audit of the Drug Medi-Cal program;
- Develop a protocol for determining the severity of problems in drug treatment clinics; and
- Require notification of top county leaders when severe problems are found.
He said, "This is an embarrassment to all concerned, the notion that contracts were being awarded and renewed to contractors who had deficiencies and we didn't know about it," adding, "I believe we have authority we haven't used to audit the contractors, and if we find they're not operating ethically and legally, we should have the authority [to] cut them loose as we do other contractors in the county."
The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday is set to consider the motion.
Los Angeles County spent $99.5 million in the most recent fiscal year on contracts with 143 drug treatment centers, which serve a total of 30,000 individuals ("L.A. Now," Los Angeles Times, 8/8).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.