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October 2, 2013

TRIAL UPDATE: Regenwether testimony details fire department's EMS billing process

DAVENPORT — Former Clinton Fire Chief Mark Regenwether concluded his testimony in the city of Clinton's legal malpractice suit Wednesday morning.

Regenwether was called by the city of Clinton Tuesday as the first witness as the city tries to prove legal malpractice on the part of attorney Michael Walker and his law firm Hopkins and Huebner.

The city claims Walker’s negligence in an emergency medical services case resulted in the city reaching a $4.5 million settlement with whistleblower Timothy Schultheis and the U.S. Department of Justice in 2010.

Walker’s firm was retained to represent the city’s interests in 2009 after Schultheis filed a complaint under the Federal False Claims Act that emergency medical calls handled by city ambulances were being improperly coded. By listing even routine calls as advanced life support calls rather than basic life support calls, Schultheis claimed the city was able to receive higher reimbursement rates from Medicare and Medicaid.

Attorney Mike Hannafan, who is with one of two firms the city hired to pursue the legal malpractice case, started the third day of the trial by asking Regenwether about a meeting that happened in February 2009 with Regenwether, then EMS director Andrew McGovern, former city attorney Paul Walter, Assistant U.S. Attorney Maureen McGuire and Kory Ihnken, an investigator with the U.S. Attorney General's office.

Although Regenwether was unaware at the time because Schultheis's federal lawsuit was still under seal, Schultheis had been in contact with McGuire and Ihnken about the city's alleged Medicare fraud.

Regenwether testified that he understood the meeting was about the fact that 99 percent of the city's Medicare calls reviewed were ALS as was indicated by a letter from McGuire he received in a month earlier, but was not told the city was being investigated for Medicare fraud. During the meeting, city representatives were asked to explain the city's coding and billing procedures for emergency medical services.

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