- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 8, 2007

The District’s Medicaid office is conducting an industrywide audit of medical-equipment dealers that received a combined $12 million from the city amid a law-enforcement investigation into several top providers.

Robert Maruca, the District’s Medicaid director, gave notice to suppliers last week that he is ordering a “verification and validation” of the companies, which supply canes, wheelchairs, walkers and power scooters costing as much as $13,000 to the city’s poor.

The audit comes weeks after The Washington Times reported that the District’s Medicaid office had failed to sign off on hundreds, if not thousands, of provider agreements. Medicaid is funded jointly by the federal and D.C. governments.

The Times also reported that four of the top 10 Medicaid suppliers were the focus of an ongoing law-enforcement investigation, not including another business raided by the FBI within the past year.

The names of the companies were not released under a Freedom of Information Act request. Neither Mr. Maruca nor D.C. health officials could be reached for comment on Mr. Maruca’s memo yesterday.

It was not clear whether the verification audit will include site checks of suppliers to ensure that the companies comply with all city Medicaid rules and that the District has the correct addresses for providers.

Some Medicaid equipment suppliers listed in the city’s current directory of Medicaid providers proved difficult to locate in a review by The Times.

Doors of Hope Medical Supply is listed as based in a medical office building next to Greater Southeast Community Hospital in the District. However, no company by that name now exists at the location.

The company’s offices were raided in December by federal authorities looking into whether the business charged the government for high-end power scooters while supplying Medicaid recipients with less-expensive models.

Faith Hope Medical Supplies is supposed to be located on Minnesota Avenue in Northeast, according to the city’s directory. But its phone is not working, and there is a beauty-supply shop at the company’s address.

The headquarters given by the District for Metropolitan Medical Supplies is a home in a residential subdivision in Gaithersburg with a basketball hoop in the driveway.

According to company executive Edem E. Apandak, despite the address in the city’s directory, his business actually is based in Capitol Heights. He said he uses his home in Gaithersburg as a mailing address, and he isn’t sure why the District doesn’t list the right business location.

In addition, city Medicaid rules mandate that suppliers remain open for at least 40 hours a week at their location, but Metropolitan Medical’s office in Capitol Heights is open for fewer than 25 hours weekly.

Mr. Apandak said he wasn’t aware of the requirement to be open for 40 hours because nobody from the District told him. He said he uses his afternoons to deliver supplies, while keeping the office open in the morning.

“If that’s the rule, then it’s not a problem to do to that,” he said.

Mr. Maruca’s plans to review medical-supply companies comes as the city’s Medicaid office finds itself the focus of increasing scrutiny in recent months.

In a separate part of the Medicaid program, a review by outside auditors raised questions about whether managed-care companies that administer Medicaid benefits for the city’s poor were hiding profits and charging excessive fees.

Mr. Maruca sent a letter to the U.S. Attorney’s Office seeking an investigation into possible fraud involving the city’s managed-care contracts.

His letter to the U.S. attorney came within days of a D.C. Office of the Inspector General report finding that lax oversight by the Medicaid office put the District at risk of losing federal funding.

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