* Re "Rule Lacks Logic," Ventura County editorials, Sept. 5.
The Times recently printed an editorial urging the county to appeal a ruling of the federal Health Care Financing Administration that would adversely affect 34 of our 43 medical clinics. This editorial correctly points out that HCFA's nine-mile billing rule is illogical and fails to recognize the benefits of Ventura County's preventive care clinic system.
Unfortunately, the same editorial stated that "the county is scraping to repay $15.3 million it faultily billed as a result of last year's failed attempt to combine its mental health and social services departments."
A more recent editorial stated: "The county has been ordered to repay $15.3 million it illegally billed to Medicare under the merger plan."
These are unfortunate misstatements of the actual facts. The much discussed $15.3 million is not the result of our efforts last year to move mental health from the Health Care Agency to the newly created Human Services Agency. Nor does it result from illegal billings under the merger plan.
Rather, this money represents settlement of a federal lawsuit reportedly [initiated] by a county psychiatrist alleging improper Medicare billing and record-keeping practices during the past 10 years--while mental health was managed by the Health Care Agency and long before the new Human Services Agency was even thought of.
The county's legal vulnerability arises from the fact that county psychiatrists repeatedly signed a certain form without stating medical necessity for the treatment. Under these circumstances, it is ironic that the psychiatrist who reportedly filed the complaint will apparently receive about $2 million from the settlement--even though he was employed by county Mental Health during that 10-year period.
SUSAN K. LACEY
Ventura County Supervisor
* Re "Mental Health Board Head Delighted, Petrified by Role," Oct. 10.
As a longtime advocate for the mentally ill and a member of the Ventura County Mental Health Board, I am extremely disappointed by articles and letters published in your paper. Karyn Bates is acting chairman of the Mental Health Board. She was chosen vice-chair to John Chaudier, whose term expired Aug. 17. At the board's executive meeting Oct. 6 we decided to forego electing a chair at present because of other pressing problems facing the board. As soon as these problems are met, the board will elect its new chair.
Shlomo Kreitzer, whom your staff but not the Mental Health Board or the Board of Supervisors considered most likely to become the next chair, resigned.
The knowledge of the billing fiasco displayed in the letter "Medicare Billing" (Ventura County letters, Oct. 10) is very limited. The illegal billings started during Randy Feltman's administration as Mental Health Agency director in 1991. In 1993, Feltman was ordered to correct the practice but did not. During the short-term merger of the Behavioral Health Department and Public Social Services Agency in 1998, Steve Kaplan was again asked to correct the billing practices he inherited but also did not.
The transfer of mental health funds was authorized by the county's chief administrative officer, approved by the supervisors and has been going on since 1993--before Pierre Durand became the Health Care Agency director in late 1995, at the height of the crisis at the Ventura County Medical Center. Because of the humongous problems at VCMC, he was not able to focus his attention on the Behavioral Health Department until 1997.