Slater shouldn’t expect sympathy from taxpayers
Dr. Gerald Slater has done himself no favors in attempting to explain away actions that left him guilty of felony theft relating to Medicaid fraud.
By his way of thinking, being overworked and underpaid gave him reason to steal $55,000 from Medicaid through overbilling from 1997-2001.
In a nutshell, that was the rationale the retired Glenwood Springs pediatrician offered through his attorney after pleading guilty in the case.
Specifically, Slater was accused of billing Medicaid at the highest possible “code” in the case of 54 “neonate” babies ” those 30 days old or younger. That code provides the highest possible compensation to doctors, but is reserved for cases of babies in critical condition. Only one of the 54 babies was that ill, according to a grand jury indictment of Slater.
Altogether, Slater was entitled to only about $16,000 in the cases, according to the indictment.
Under the plea bargain, Slater must pay back the money and will receive a deferred sentence. His statement points out that the felony theft charge will be dropped if he stays out of trouble for four years and fulfills his sentencing obligations.
Minimizing his culpability every step of the way, Slater in his statement continues to dispute Medicaid’s claims that he defrauded the program. He says he was prepared to have experts testify in court on behalf of his rationale for his billing practices.
Slater, who had been a well-respected pediatrician, would have been better off just accepting his punishment quietly and moving on ” lucky to be let off as lightly as he was. Instead, in his statement he tells of being the only pediatrician on call at Valley View Hospital for 13 months, and “essentially doing the work of multiple people.” He contends that the billing dispute is not a criminal matter, but instead “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.”
Concern about getting adequate compensation for physicians, and hospitals, in rural areas is nothing new. U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis successfully dealt with some of these concerns in Medicare legislation he ushered through Congress last year.
If any doctor has issues with compensation, the correct way to address them is to go through proper channels to seek changes in compensation. The solution isn’t to take matters into one’s own hands by misrepresenting illnesses and overcharging a government program.
Slater can offer all the excuses he wants. But he shouldn’t expect his actions to sit well with the taxpayers who fund Medicaid. Many of them feel overworked and underpaid, too, yet know the answer to their problems isn’t to steal from others.
Michael Bennett, publisher
Heather McGregor, editor
Dennis Webb, news editor
Sean Kelly, sports editor
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