The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Clinton

October 9, 2013

Trial update: Firefighters not told to code at higher rate, McGovern says

DAVENPORT — Clinton firefighter paramedics were not told to code every ambulance to run at a higher rate no matter what, EMS Director Andrew McGovern testified Wednesday.  

McGovern returned to the stand Wednesday as the city's legal malpractice suit against attorney Michael Walker and his law firm Hopkins and Huebner continued.

Walker represented the city in a federal False Claims Act suit brought on by whistleblower Timothy Schultheis in 2008. The city claims Walker failed to properly analyze the case and his alleged negligence led to the city settling for $4.5 million in 2010.  

Schultheis claimed the city, at the direction of the EMS Director, McGovern and former fire chief Mark Regenwether, knowingly, deliberately or recklessly submitted false claims to the U.S. government in order to get higher reimbursements from Medicare and Medicaid for its emergency medical services.  

At issue throughout the legal malpractice suit has been the city's use of the advanced life support code instead of the basic life support code, the former yielding the higher reimbursement rate.

When Schultheis testified last week, he said McGovern told firefighter paramedics to code all patient care reports ALS and to use oxygen, heart monitor and IV's on all patients transported by the city ambulance.

Theses assertions were not true, McGovern testified.  

Coding was done according to a number of guides, including those from Medicare, the American Ambulance Association and the firm Page, Wolfberg and Wirth, McGovern said. Douglas Wolfberg of Page, Wolfberg and Wirth was retained by the city as an expert for the Schultheis case.

While the city had a 99 percent ALS rate for Medicare claims during the period under scrutiny, this did not surprise McGovern given the elderly population in Clinton, he testified.

He believed the fire department was being accurate when completing patient care reports, which he told Schultheis during the two conversations they had about coding prior to the False Claims Act case being filed, McGovern testified.  

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