VENTURA COUNTY: State Urges County to Submit Late Claims
The California Department of Mental Health has sent Ventura County a letter urging the immediate submission of $16 million "in mental health claims that the county has withheld for 10 months for fear they could be deemed improper billings." The recommendation comes on the heels of a review that found the county guilty of improprieties in claims submissions. The Ventura County Star reports that the county stopped submitting claims to Medi-Cal late last year after county officials questioned the legality of those submissions. The county has since agreed to a $15.3 settlement with the government for improper billings, but has been witholding further submissions until it receives assurances that the matter is resolved. In light of this fact, county officials are still considering how to respond to the letter and are seeking "legal advice on whether the person who signs the claims -- Health Care Agency Director Pierre Durand -- would be personally liable if the state finds false claims."
Mental health systems administrator Teri Barthels warned in the letter that "bills that are more than six months old may not be paid." But county Chief Administrative Officer Lin Koester said he hoped that the state's recommendation indicated the county would not be penalized for its tardiness. Supervisor John Flynn was also encouraged by the letter, saying, "It's strong, it's to the point, it gives us permission to file the claims. We should do it immediately" (Wilson, 8/31).