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Sarasota Thursday, Apr. 26, 2012 5 years ago

Sarasota joins unpaid Medicaid bills lawsuit

by: Kurt Schultheis Senior Editor

The Sarasota County Commission opted to join a lawsuit with 30 other Florida counties in an attempt to recoup some of its unpaid Medicaid bill costs.

The decision comes just two weeks after the Manatee County Commission agreed to have its attorney look into whether or not it should join the lawsuit.

Sarasota and Manatee counties have a choice: Accept a new bill signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott or pay $10.5 million in unpaid combined Medicaid costs; $6.1 million for Sarasota County and $4.4 million for Manatee County.

With many counties facing large budget cuts to offset another year of anticipated ad valorem revenue reductions, counties are choosing to join the lawsuit to fight the state on a law that now requires the state to pick up 85% of the tab for disputed Medicaid charges.

In Sarasota County alone, 28% of its Medicaid debt in the 2010-11 fiscal year was disputed because of inaccuracies.

Sarasota County Attorney Steve DeMarsh recommended to commissioners at its regular meeting Tuesday, April 24, that the county join the other Florida counties and the Florida Association of Counties in a lawsuit challenging the law, which forces the responsibility of recouping money from the unpaid bills from the state level to the county level.

The state has more than $325 million in unpaid Medicaid bills that state officials attribute to computer errors and patient fraud.

The new law has counties responsible for collecting their money and several counties are annoyed and frustrated by it.

The problem is this: Many Medicaid service providers send bills to the wrong address or use fake dates to stall or get out of paying the bills altogether. That leaves the county stuck with thousands of dollars in unpaid Medicaid costs.

To make matters worse, a new state computer system installed in 2008 has been blamed for causing undisputed bills to rise to exorbitant numbers. The unpaid tabs are also frustrating elected officials because unless the debt is paid for and wiped clean, it will affect county credit ratings.

In Other Action
The Sarasota County Commission also made the following decisions at its Tuesday, April 24, regular meeting in Sarasota:

• Approved a $280,968.16 contract with Williams Testing LLC for the construction of the Siesta Key Sanitary Sewer Rehabilitation Project.

• Approved a contract/grant agreement with Longboat Library Inc. for a one-time contribution of $20,000 that will only be dispersed as the library submits expenditure receipts.

• Approved contracts of $401,050 and $662,500 annually for mosquito control aerial larvicide spraying.

• Approved a lease agreement with the city of Sarasota to lease 3,394 square feet of office space located at 2050 Adams Lane for the Sarasota County Law Library in the amount of $10 per year for a term of five years.

• Delayed a decision on the final design and construction of a new 911 Emergency Operations Center on county-owned property at 1301 Cattlemen Road until the commission can vet final concerns at a May meeting.

• Discussed its 2012 major improvement project priorities, state and federal transportation project priorities and an infrastructure surtax program that will be further discussed and approved this summer during budget meetings.

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