Sarasota County sees 44% reduction in disputed Medicaid charges

The County Commission discusses budget matters during a June workshop. Photo by Norman Schimmel

Instead of $6.5 million, Sarasota County is looking at a total of about $3.6 million in disputed state Medicaid billings, the county has announced.

The new figure, released by the state’s Agency for Health Care Administration, represents a 44% reduction from the original amount, a news release points out.

The newly certified figure is $3,574,229.54, according to the letter AHCA sent to the county this week, which was required by state law. It was dated Aug. 1

“We appreciate that the Governor’s Office and the Agency for Health Care Administration recognize that the Medicaid billing system has serious flaws and took steps to determine the accuracy of past bills,” said Christine Robinson, Sarasota County Commission chairwoman, in the news release.

The Medicaid billing dispute is the result of action by the Florida Legislature, which requires counties to pay for past rejected Medicaid charges from 2001 through April 2012.

Under the legislation, the county has until Sept. 1 to decide whether to pay 85% of the $3.5 million or challenge the amount in an administrative hearing. The County Commission will discuss the numbers and the option for a hearing when it holds its regular meeting on Aug. 20, the news release says.

An Aug. 2 email to Robinson from Marsha Hosack of the county’s Governmental Relations Office says, “We have not yet received the actual file of bills [from AHCA]. Earlier in July we received a preliminary file of billings for review. We still had some issues with certain bills and asked that about $236,000 be removed. AHCA removed about $50,000 from the amount provided earlier in July but did not explain which [bills] were accepted or rejected.”

Sarasota County is one of 55 counties that joined the Florida Association of Counties in filing a lawsuit against the state this spring over the Medicaid legislation. Under the new law, Medicaid billings are taken from each county’s half-cent sales tax distribution. Counties must prove inaccuracies in the charges to receive a refund or credit, the county news release points out.

“Sarasota County has always been willing to pay accurate Medicaid bills,” Robinson said in the news release. “The disputed bills were not paid because they were clearly inaccurate or there was inadequate information to verify their accuracy. The 44% reduction in the amount AHCA certified demonstrates the inefficiency of the Medicaid billing system, which is extremely time-consuming and potentially costly for counties faced with inaccurate charges.

She added, “The state Medicaid program must develop a more efficient billing method that assures accountability of residency verification from the initial determination through billing. Sarasota County has offered and is available to work with AHCA to implement more effective and accurate billing methods.”