- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 30, 2005

ANNAPOLIS (AP) — The federal Department of Health and Human Services plans to audit 20 of Maryland’s 24 school systems, focusing on their Medicaid billing records.

The major audit could cost the systems millions. It also exacerbates a dispute between the state education department and Baltimore school officials.

School systems receive Medicaid reimbursement to cover part of the cost of medical services provided to special-education students from low-income families.

As a result of a previous review of eight Maryland school systems, auditors have determined that six systems and the state must repay $19.9 million in reimbursement. The state is appealing that decision.

Last month, auditors said they would return to review four more years of records in Baltimore. The city must repay $12.2 million of the $19.9 million if the appeal is lost.

On July 22, a federal official said auditors intend to review the Medicaid billing records from 2000 to 2004 for all school systems that contract out for school-based health services, not just Baltimore.

The affected school systems, which include Baltimore city and Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Howard, Carroll and Harford counties, will be required to produce a huge amount of paperwork.

“It’s really a massive undertaking,” said Carol Ann Baglin, assistant state superintendent for special education, noting that auditors spent several months on the earlier, smaller review. “It’s very burdensome to retrieve all of those materials.”

City school officials said the expansion of the audit proves that the problem with Medicaid billing records is statewide.

“The state put it out there that this was a Baltimore city issue,” said Benjamin Feldman, the city school system’s research, evaluation and accountability officer. “It’s a state accountability issue that they’re looking at.”

State officials, however, say they are primarily concerned about what the auditors will find in Baltimore.

“Frankly, there’s no indication of billing problems in other school systems,” Miss Baglin said. “I’m not as worried about the other districts. I remain worried about Baltimore city.”

Glenn Baly, a spokesman for the Office of Inspector General at the Department of Health and Human Services, wouldn’t comment.

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