VENTURA COUNTY: Officials Ask Lawmakers for More Health Care Funding
Ventura County officials Wednesday lobbied members of Congress to help the county secure additional federal funding for local health care programs, but it appears unlikely that the government will waive $7 million in interest and penalties the county owes due to mishandled Medicare billing, the Ventura County Star reports. The interest and penalties are part of the $15.3 million settlement county officials brokered with the Justice Department concerning a dispute with federal health officials over 10 years of mishandled Medicare bills. Ventura County Supervisor Judy Mikels said, "The settlement acerbates an already heavy burden that we're struggling with. ... We need Congress' help quite frankly." County officials met in private sessions with Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-Simi Valley) and Washington representatives for Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Gov. Gray Davis (D). Officials are scheduled to meet with Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Woodland Hills) today. Mikels said, "We need help in getting funding streams that are reliable, that are flexible, and clear, succinct policies and orders and directives so that when we do all of this, we're not at risk" of another dispute with the government. But Mikels added that "there is almost no hope" that the government will forgive the $7 million in interest and penalties. County officials did not broach that issue during the meetings. At the same time, county officials have had to contend with an accusation from HCFA over whether the county's 22 health clinics "are properly meeting federal reimbursement requirements" (Lowy, 5/11).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.