Wednesday, April 25, 2001

Henry: Reimbursements minimal

Lt. governor says he got just $20K in doctor's fees from Medicare

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COLD SPRING — Lt. Gov. Steve Henry said state records released this week indicate he is making relatively small amounts of money from the government-funded health care programs he is accused of bilking.

        A federal grand jury in Louisville is investigating allegations that Dr. Henry — an orthopedic surgeon in his second term as lieutenant governor — improperly billed Medicare for services he performed at the University of Louisville hospital.

[photo] Sgt. Adam Fuller of the Central Campbell County Fire District talks Tuesday with Lt. Gov. Steve Henry about Medicare reimbursements to fire departments.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
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        But the records indicate that Dr. Henry made only about $20,000 from Medicare, a government-funded health care program for the indigent, since he took public office in December 1995.

        The billing records were released Monday by the Kentucky Cabinet for Health Services at the request of the news media, a move supported by Dr. Henry.

        “I personally wanted the records released because I think it shows how little money I have received,” Dr. Henry said Tuesday while in Northern Kentucky. “If you've been reading the news accounts ... people would think Steve Henry is getting hundreds of thousands of dollars in government pay. That simply isn't the case.”

        The grand jury and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are investigating whether Dr. Henry billed the government for medical services and procedures when he was actually traveling.

        Dr. Henry's attorney, Jack Smith of Louisville, has said that federal investigators have found billing discrepancies, but that any errors were “innocent mistakes” made through “sloppiness.”

        Dr. Henry would not discuss specifics of the investigation or answer questions about whether he thinks he will be indicted or exonerated by the grand jury.

        “I don't think it's in anybody's best interest to get into details or explanations right now,” Dr. Henry said. “But did I make a lot of money? No.”

        Dr. Henry was in Northern Kentucky to talk to health-care providers and emergency medical personnel about the government's poor performance in reimbursing providers. He spoke with, among others, physicians and administrators at St. Luke Hospital East in Fort Thomas and members of the Alexandria and Central Campbell County emergency rescue units.

        At the Central Campbell firehouse in Cold Spring, Chief Gerald Sandfoss and Sgt. Adam Fuller said Dr. Henry's office has helped the department recover about $12,000 in back payments from the government.

        But the department — which serves Cold Spring, Highland Heights, Crestview and Northern Kentucky University — is still owed about $25,000 for transporting patients by ambulance to hospitals.

        The payments are due through Medicare as well as Medicaid, a government-funded health insurance program for people over age 65.

        Dr. Henry said his own records show that he receives reimbursement only for about 11 percent to 12 percent of his billings to Medicare.

        The records show that between 1996 and this year, Dr. Henry has billed the government for 248 medical procedures. Of those, no payment at all was made for 118 of the procedures.

        And in many instances, Dr. Henry showed, he received far less money than what was billed to the government.

        For instance in January 1997, he billed the government $618 for medical services to close a large cut on a patient. He received $12.80 in reimbursement.

        The government did pay about $45,000 to Dr. Henry since 1996. About 55 percent of that went to the University of Louisville, which operates the hospital.

        Dr. Henry said he made about $75,000 last year as a part-time member of the hospital's staff. He said he could probably make “ten times that” as a full-time surgeon.

        “But that's my night job,” he said. “My main focus is serving as lieutenant governor.”

        Dr. Henry also said he volunteers one night a week working at the university's charity clinic, where the uninsured poor and homeless receive free medical care.

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