Auditor Drops Fraud Allegations Against Doctor

Posted Date: February 20th, 2014 | Categories: Licensure & Disciplinary

Six months after Auditor Dave Yost found that a Columbus psychologist owed $200,000 to Ohio’s Medicaid program for improper billings, state officials reversed the finding and dropped demands that Dr. George Serednesky repay the money.

“We have decided not to pursue collection of this particular audit,” David J. Espinoza, an attorney for the state Office of Medical Assistance, wrote to Serednesky’s attorney, Eric A. Jones, in a letter released yesterday.

The decision was a relief to Serednesky, who has long argued that a permanent injunction he was awarded 35 years ago allowed him to bill Medicaid for services provided by graduate-level interns working under his supervision. The order was upheld by the Franklin County Court of Appeals.

Serednesky said the allegations have caused him personal and professional embarrassment and would limit access to services for the mentally ill.

The use of interns or assistants, Serednesky said, helps meet demand for treatment, gives psychology students experience and keeps his practice financially afloat. Medicaid, he noted, pays $47 an hour for psychological services, less than a third of the regular rate he charges.

The state’s $18 billion Medicaid program provides physical and mental-health services to 2.3 million poor and disabled Ohioans.

In an audit released in December, Yost contended that Serednesky could get paid by Medicaid only for services provided by a licensed psychologist. The auditor found the psychologist owed $186,000 in payments he received for services provided by unlicensed assistants from 2007 to 2011, along with $14,000 in interest.

Yost found the court ruling did not exempt Serednesky from the requirement.

But Medicaid officials, after consulting with the Ohio attorney general’s office, decided that the 1978 permanent injunction order still stands, said Sam Rossi, spokesman for the state Office of Medical Assistance.

The decision is not expected to have wide-spread implications as Serednesky is the only psychologist in Ohio protected by the court order.

Medicaid rules adopted since the court decision require that services be provided by a licensed psychologist.

Yost spokeswoman Carrie Bartunek said the auditor’s office stands behind its audit. However, the review was conducted for the Office of Medical Assistance, and it is that agency’s decision whether to pursue collection.

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