On Friday at 4:55 p.m., Broward County sent out a press release lauding vice mayor Barbara Sharief for her role in saving county taxpayers $11.5 million. The state and county had been fighting about which of them would pay disputed costs for Medicaid. The state sent Broward a bill for $15.5 million. The county eventually -- in a deal that was expected to be finalized Tuesday night -- got away with paying just $4.5 million, hence, the savings. Sharief, a former nurse who went on to run her own home healthcare company, South Florida Pediatric Homecare, had testified in the proceedings.
It was ironic, because just two days earlier, Sharief had been in the news because her company had been accused of overbilling Medicaid nearly half a million dollars between 2007 and 2011. She settled, agreeing to pay $588,889 -- which includes the amount she was overpaid, plus nearly $100,000 in fines.
Her company is also being investigated in a second Medicaid case.
Sharief is expected to become mayor of the county in November.
Friday's press release explained:
Broward County Commissioners are expected to approve a Medicaid settlement agreement from the Broward Health Hospital District in the amount of $495,697. The item on Tuesday's agenda brings to a close complex litigation over a controversial change in Medicaid billings for Florida counties.
It began last year with the passage of legislation that required counties to pay disputed or unpaid Medicaid bills or face withholding of state revenues for the costs. The backlogs of disputed bills related to inpatient hospitalization and nursing home stays.
In August of last year, the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) billed Broward County nearly $38 million for disputed Medicaid claims from 2001 through 2012. Broward joined other counties in litigation challenging the new law.
The amount of Medicaid payments changed time and time again as Broward County demanded to see invoices and evidence that the amount was accurate.
When presented with a certified invoice for $15.5 million, the Broward Commission directed the county attorney to initiate legal proceedings before the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings to contest the AHCA certified amount.
Vice Mayor Barbara Sharief testified at those hearings on behalf of Broward County. "We have successfully disputed millions of dollars in erroneous bills generated by an admittedly broken system," said Sharief at the April hearing.
Broward County prevailed, agreeing to a settlement amount of $4 million. The final savings to taxpayers, inclusive of the hospital districts, totaled $11.5 million.
Broward County's efforts were recognized by the Florida Association of Counties (FAC), who presented Vice Mayor Sharief with the Presidential Advocacy Award in June. "It is public servants like Vice Mayor Sharief that ensure our local communities have the authority to respond to the demands of their citizens," said FAC Executive Director Chris Holley, "Vice Mayor Sharief's support in our efforts to create an equitable and fair solution to Medicaid cost share was essential in getting rid of the cumbersome and erroneous billing system that has been in place for years
Here's the link to the Final Order and Settlement Agreement from the case against South Florida Pediatric Homecare. Sharief told the Sun-Sentinel she did not overbill but settled, because if she had fought the charges and been found guilty, her Medicaid provider status could have been yanked. This settlement allows her to stay in business and continue to bill Medicaid. There is no related criminal charge.
Shelisha Coleman from the Agency for Health Care Administration said Sharief has been served a final audit in a second case. Coleman wrote, "It is currently in active litigation status and associated documentation is not releasable."
Sharief asked that questions be emailed to her yesterday morning. We will update if/when she responds.