State withholds E

Its a really important responsibility, Sharfstein said in an interview, and weve got to make sure the system is working as well as possible.

Annapolis. The hearings were called in response to a Sun investigation last year that found questionable practices at one of Baltimore Citys largest mental health clinics.

Fuhrman did not respond to e-mail and phone messages Wednesday, and the clinics lawyer did not return a message.

The legislatures job is to make sure regulators have all the tools and direction they need, said Del. Dan K. Morhaim, a member of the House Health and Government Operations Committee. If its a management problem [at the health department], well attempt to deal with that. If its a change in law, well hopefully make those changes, too.

On top of being jailed, all of the owners (including his wifes) assets should be siezed, and they should be forced to pay back all illegitimately received Medicaid funding. This is another example of fraud and abuse leading to astronimacally high health costs for little value added. They should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

mental health clinic, including overbilling and charging for the work of physicians who were not at the cility.

Together the states Medicaid investigation — which began with a tip — and The Suns findings point to possible insufficiencies in the states oversight, which lawmakers say they plan to address in coming weeks at hearings in

State health officials have forced the mily members to cede control of BBHs board, fined the nonprofit $90,000 for emplohealth easternying a doctor who had been convicted of Medicaid fraud and required BBH to draw up a detailed corrective plan.

On Wednesday, Dr. Joshua Sharfstein used his first day as secretary of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to stress the importance of monitoring. In a memo to top department officials, he said he has asked Wendy Kronmiller, chief of staff and assistant secretary for regulatory afirs, to conduct a review of the departments oversight capabilities.

The letter from Inspector General Thomas V. Russell suspending Warwick Manors Medicaid payments allows the clinic to continue treating Medicaid recipients and to submit new claims. Russell wrote that all Medicaid payments will be withheld, however, unless state officials determine there is insufficient evidence of fraud or willful misrepresentation, or until any state legal actions are completed.

With the state looking to close a projected $1.6 billion shortll, the health department is expected to be a target for cuts because it spends nearly 40 percent of Marylands $13 billion general fund. The department has been cut repeatedly in recent years, angering providers and advocates.

Still, Morhaim said, he hopes to address the issue of state oversight of healthcare providers at legislative hearings that his committee chairman, Del. Peter A. Hammen, plans to hold in Annapolis.

Morhaim, a Baltimore County Democrat and a physician, said he respects most providers who treat drug addiction and mental illness. They are working hard in very tough jobs, he said. They are underfunded, which makes it all the more important to make sure every dollar is spent wisely.

Hammen, a Baltimore Democrat, called for hearings in November after a Sun investigation of

But Mental Hygiene deputy director Lissa Abrams acknowledged a need for greater auditing capacity. In the cases of both Warwick Manor and State withholds EBBH, details of questionable management and billing practices were contained in public records — some of them in the states own files. Yet reviews were not initiated by regulators. The Medicaid probe at Warwick Manor resulted from a tip provided by someone miliar with its practices, according to department sources.

The inspector general of the state health department sent a letter Wednesday to Warwick Manor Behavioral Health Inc., near Cambridge, saying the state has suspended all

Separately, The Baltimore Sun found that Warwick Manor has been paying its chief executive, L. Wesley Fuhrman, an annual salary of up to $398,000, r higher than similar organizations nationwide. The clinic also has made $309,000 in loans, largely without collateral, which a former top

Medicaid payments to the clinic. Warwick Manor treats roughly 2,000 patients a year and billed the states Medicaid program $1.5 million last year.

In addition, the departments inspector general conducts audits and can refer findings to the attorney generals Medicaid fraud unit. A state law passed last year allows the state to collect triple damages for Medicaid fraud and for whistleblowers to seek a share of damages.

The health departments Mental Hygiene Administration oversees several hundred mental health providers that are eligible to bill Medicaid, the state-federal health program for the poor and disabled.

Each provider is supposed to be reviewed every three years by the Office of Health Care Quality. Also, ValueOptions, the private firm that administers Medicaid in Maryland, must review 60 programs a year.

In the last fiscal year, Warwick Manor received $1.5 million from Medicaid for mental health services. Its tax filing last year shows it had total revenue of $7.2 million, much of it from private insurance and self-pay clients.

Baltimore Behavioral Health Inc., a mental health clinic that is among the citys largest drug treatment providers. That investigation found high Medicaid billings and documented how six mily members who controlled the nonprofits board collectively earned $1.4 million last year.

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State health investigators disclosed Wednesday that they have uncovered evidence of fraud or willful misrepresentation by an Eastern Shore drug treatment and

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