The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Local News

October 4, 2013

Trial Day 4: Walker 'disturbed' by records




Walker was questioned by Mike Hannafan, an attorney with the Chicago law firm the city retained for the legal malpractice suit, for more than 5 hours Thursday. Many of his questions centered around the work Walker did before advising the city to settle, including the review of the city’s ambulance run records.  

The city had around 1,500 Medicare or Medicaid ambulance runs a year, which equated to 9,000 runs for the period from 2002 to 2008 that was within the statute of limitations of the federal False Claims Act. Because of the “logistical challenge” to review or have an expert review those thousands of records, Walker and fellow attorneys looked at two years of records.  

Walker explained that he and four other attorneys with Hopkins and Huebner reviewed patient care reports and explanation of benefits statements from 2004 and 2008 to summarize them and highlight the codes used on them. In 2004, there were arguably 12 percent of the calls that should have been billed BLS, Walker found.

They were advised to review these records by Wolfberg, Walker explained. According to bills from Hopkins and Huebner to the city, around 70 percent of the billing entries were for review of records, Hannafan said.  

Wolfberg was sent thousands of records, but as his testimony in the Civil Cervice Commission from Nov. 23, 2010 showed, he only reviewed around 60 of those records. Walker testified Thursday he never called Wolfberg to see what he had done with the records after they were sent in February 2010.  

Wolfberg’s testimony from the Civil Service Commission hearing also shows he said he wasn’t hired to ascertain if the bills were correct. Walker said Thursday that was absolutely not true, Wolfberg had been asked to tell him if any of the city’s practices violated federal codes. This request was evident in an June 17, 2010 communication from Walker to Wolfberg.  

The purported expert never told Walker if there had been any violations.    

When asked Thursday if he had drawn any conclusions from his review of the records about the city’s coding and billing procedures, Walker said he formed an opinion as someone who was seeing a patient care report for the first time and did not have any expertise in that field.  

“It didn’t pass the smell test,” Walker said.

He went on to say he thought there was something wrong when he kept seeing the same ALS code on reports for people who merely needed a ride, a friend or were intoxicated.  

“When you read the narratives as a layperson it was disturbing,” he said.  

Walker said he never asked anyone but EMS Director Andy McGovern why the reports were coded as they were. He and McGovern never discussed specific reports, only the reports as a group.  

Being wrong in its billings would not have been enough for Schultheis to win had the case gone to trial. Under the Federal False Claims Act, the city would have to have known the bills it was submitting to the federal government were false.  

At the time Walker was representing the city’s interests, he was convinced the city was unaware its billing practices were inaccurate, he testified Thursday.  

During his deposition performed by Hannafan last year, Walker was asked if he thought McGovern thought he was doing the right thing with ALS and BLS coding.

“If you take what he was telling me at face value, yes,” Walker answered.  

In the 10 months he worked on the Medicare fraud suit, Walker didn’t take any depositions, something Hannafan asked him several questions about Thursday. Among the depositions he didn’t take was that of Schultheis.

Walker testified that he thought taking Schultheis’s deposition was not in the best interest of the case. Walker further testified he had been told by city employees Schultheis was a “disgruntled firefighter” and his credibility was “suspect.” He knew what Schultheis would say had a deposition been taken, Walker testified.  

Walker agreed Hannafan impeached Schultheis on Wednesday by showing his testimony regarding ALS rules were inconsistent. However, Walker said he believed Schultheis’s testimony Wednesday was not in the best interest of the city for the legal malpractice case.

“I think he was a poor witness for the city,” Walker said. “I think it hurt your case.”  

Hannafan’s other questions focused on the defenses that were raised in the city’s answer to the Schultheis complaint. Walker never filed motions to dismiss, Hannafan pointed out.  

The questioning stopped Thursday afternoon shortly before 4:30 p.m. Walker’s attorney, Bob Waterman, will perform his cross examination Friday.

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