Medicaid Fraud Investigators Take Patient Records From Broward County, Fla., AIDS Clinic for Criminal Investigation
Investigators with the Florida Attorney General's Office yesterday confiscated the patient records of the Broward County, Fla.-based HIV/AIDS agency Community Healthcare/Center One as part of an investigation into whether the agency committed Medicaid fraud, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports. The investigators did not disclose details of the inquiry, stating only that they were conducting a criminal investigation of the agency's Medicaid billing practices. Community Healthcare/Center One is the "oldest and largest private HIV/AIDS clinic in Broward County" and provides a variety of services, including outpatient medical care, substance abuse treatment, HIV testing, alternative therapies, housing assistance, Medicaid/Medicare enrollment and mental health counseling. Sharon Kegerreis, a lawyer for Community Healthcare/Center One, said that agency officials have been aware of the investigation "for months" and have tried to figure out how to release patient records in an "orderly process" that would protect patient confidentiality. Charles Faircloth, bureau chief for the state Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, said that his team will provide the clinic with copies of the seized patient records so that patients can continue to receive treatment. Although the investigation has not permanently shut down the clinic, the facility was closed yesterday while investigators sorted through files.
Potential Negative Consequences
Jasmin Shirley, vice president of development for the North Broward Hospital District, said that HIV/AIDS patients in the area would be negatively affected if Community Healthcare/Center One were closed for an extended period of time because the agency is a "major provider" of HIV/AIDS care in South Florida. Other AIDS activists are concerned that an investigation of the agency would "tarnish" its reputation and hurt the fundraising abilities of other HIV/AIDS organizations in the area (O'Boye/LaMendola, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 8/15). The agency is the product of a 2001 merger between Center One and Community Healthcare. Before the merger, Center One was "financially ailing," with a $350,000 debt and "weak fundraising" revenues (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/3/01).