County seeks reimbursement from state

JOHNSTOWN – Fulton County is waiting to hear about the status of its effort to recoup $20,000 in state Medicaid costs, a Department of Social Services official said Thursday.

The county Board of Supervisors in June 2013 approved a contract with two law firms to pursue Medicaid money the state has owed the county for years.

The county in 2013 signed a contract retainer agreement with Whiteman, Osterman and Hanna LLP of Albany and Nancy Rose Stormer of Utica to take legal action against the state.

The county is trying to obtain delinquent Medicaid reimbursements, also known as “overburden” payments. The contract was structured so there would be no direct cost to the county for legal services. The law firms will be paid a 36 percent contingency fee based on the amount recovered.

DSS Commissioner Sheryda Cooper said the legal action involves the state Department of Health. She said not much has happened.

“It’s a pretty long process,” Cooper said. “We did an initial claim for $20,000, and now it’s waiting for DOH to reject it and the [legal] firm to appeal it.”

Cooper said she’s not sure if any other legal action has been filed for the county in the Medicaid reimbursement case.

During the 1990s, patients’ names were dropped from Medicaid reports and the state stopped reimbursement to counties.

Claims are submitted to DOH, but the process involves extensive litigation. Whiteman, Osterman & Hanna attorney Christopher Buckey told supervisors last summer the two legal firms at that point had won all 30 trials they’ve been involved in and recovered $20 million for nine counties. He said the state estimates it may still owe counties about $180 million, although lawyers claim it may be a higher amount.

Payroll transfer

In another Medicaid matter, Cooper received county authorization to transfer more than $129,000 in payroll because Fulton County DSS moved its Investigative Unit under the purview of the Financial Assistance Division.

“It’s a result of the gradual changes as the state takes over Medicaid,” Cooper said.

DSS recently did some internal restructuring and planning for the future as the state continues to move forward with takeover of the Medicaid administration, she said.

Michael Anich covers Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.