Orange County Repays $7M to Government for Medicare Overbilling
Orange County on Thursday paid the federal government $7 million to settle allegations that its Health Care Agency overbilled Medicare by as much as twice that amount in the 1990s, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The U.S. Attorney's Office said the overbilling occurred between 1990 and 1999, when the county's Behavioral Health Services Division was paid for psychiatric and evaluative interviews. Only interviews conducted by physicians or by clinical psychologists and licensed social workers under a physician's supervision are eligible for reimbursement.
"This was a mistake," Chris Norby, chair of the county Board of Supervisors said, adding that errors were made by county employees who mistakenly billed according to the wrong set of standards.
The U.S. Attorney's Office also alleged that Orange County improperly billed and was paid for dispensing self-administered methadone to drug-addicted patients, which is not covered by Medicare. The county also categoried short office visits as more intensive visits requiring higher compensation, the Times reports.
The federal government initially requested $14 million, Norby said, but county negotiators reduced that figure by half.
A statement from the Health Care Agency said the problem was corrected in 2000 when the agency "fully redesigned its clinical documentation and billing processes to ensure that all services provided are properly documented and that billing is submitted in an accurate manner" (Haldane, Los Angeles Times, 12/21).