Doctor defends billing practices
Post Independent Staff
Retired Glenwood Springs pediatrician Dr. Gerald Slater issued a statement through his attorney Thursday defending his theft of Medicaid money.
The 59-year-old doctor pleaded guilty on Feb. 20 to one count of felony theft.
Terms of the plea bargain include a four-year deferred sentence and repayment of the $55,000 he pleaded guilty to stealing from Medicaid.
Slater’s statement points out that a deferred sentence means that if he keeps out of trouble for four years and fulfills the obligations imposed on him by 9th District Judge T. Peter Craven at his April 29 sentencing hearing, the felony theft charge will be dropped.
“It was in this context that Dr. Slater agreed to forgo trial by jury and pay back to Medicaid the monies they claimed were owing,” said the statement issued by Slater’s attorney, Gary Lozow of Denver.
Slater’s statement said he was prepared to go to trial and “had expert testimony to support his medical rationale for billing.”
Slater was indicted by a Colorado grand jury on March 7, 2003, on two charges of theft, two charges of computer crime and two charges of offering a false instrument for recording in the first degree ” all felonies.
He was accused of submitting fraudulent bills to Medicaid, the federal program that reimburses medical providers when they give medical assistance to the needy.
According to the grand jury indictment, during 1997, 2000 and 2001, Slater treated 54 “neonates” ” a term that refers to babies from birth until they’re 30 days old ” at Valley View Hospital. All the parents of the 54 babies in question were eligible for Medicaid.
Slater then billed Medicaid at the highest possible “code” for all 54 babies ” a code that would only be used if the babies were in extremely critical condition. The indictment said only one baby was in critical condition, the indictment said.
Colorado first assistant attorney general Mark Zammuto, the prosecutor in the case, said the state Medicare Fraud Unit was most interested in getting the money back, so it agreed in the plea bargain to charge Slater with just one count of felony theft.
Slater’s statement said during the six-year time frame in question, the doctor treated more than 500 babies.
“For 13 months, he was the only pediatrician on call at Valley View Hospital. He replaced two neonatologists and a nurse practitioner and was essentially doing the work of multiple people,” the statement said.
He also stated, “No other insurer, except Medicaid, objected to his billings.”
Slater contends that his billing practices, “at worst, involved rational differences with the state and their experts on how a pediatrician bills for his time when he is the only physician providing that care in a small-town setting.”
Slater’s statement also takes issue with the Medicaid Fraud Unit for indicting him instead of educating him about their policies.
“Instead, they brought very serious charges against Dr. Slater,” the statement said.
Zammuto declined to comment on the statement, saying he’d rather wait until Slater’s sentencing hearing on April 29.
Contact Greg Masse: 945-8515, ext. 511
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