- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 2, 2005

D.C. officials have asked the Whitman-Walker Clinic to provide billing records, internal audits and other documents due to concern that the nonprofit group overbilled the city “well beyond” the $2 million that clinic officials disclosed in March.

Based in the District, Whitman-Walker is the region’s largest provider of HIV/AIDS services.

In a letter last month to the nonprofit’s attorneys, D.C. Health Director Gregg A. Pane told Whitman-Walker that it appears the clinic overbilled “for well beyond an admitted amount of more than $2 million.”

It is not clear exactly how much money the government was overcharged.

The Washington Times has obtained a copy of Dr. Pane’s letter.

In his letter, Dr. Pane noted that U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also has expressed concern about the clinic’s management of federal funds.

“The Health Resources and Service Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has expressed concern to [the District] about the federal funds involved in many of the grants awarded to the [clinic],” he wrote.

Whitman-Walker reported revenues of $29.4 million in 2003, including $23.9 million in government grants, and expenses of $28.4 million. It provided more than 11,000 medical appointments and nearly 7,000 counseling sessions, according to clinic records.

Roberta Geinder-Antoniotti, interim executive director for the clinic, said yesterday thatWhitman-Walker has complied with Dr. Pane’s request for records.

Dr. Pane had sought audited and unaudited financial statements, a laboratory price list, a corrective action plan and other documents.

Miss Geinder-Antoniotti said the clinic discovered the accounting problem through an internal audit. She said clinic officials informed the city’s HIV/AIDS Administration when they learned about it in March.

“This isn’t unusual,” she said. “This happens to hospitals, universities and community-based organizations … where there are a lot of regulations and a skeletal staff. Sometimes there is an oversight and there just isn’t a full understanding of what the grant regulations are.”

The internal audit found an estimated $2 million in overbilling for lab services. Whitman-Walker officials said they are reviewing their billing practices for other services.

A spokeswoman for the D.C. Health Department said Dr. Pane met with clinic officials this week to discuss its financial troubles and plans to cut services and layoff staff.

“What we’re concentrating on is the clients and making sure that they get services,” said Leila Abrar, spokeswoman for the health department.

“We’re working together, we’re collaborating,” Miss Geinder-Antoniotti said of the talks between health officials and the clinic.

D.C. Council member David A. Catania, at-large independent and chairman of the health committee, said the billing problems may be more widespread and that health officials should review other providers’ billing.

However, Mr. Catania said he does not think the clinic misspent any of the grant funds under scrutiny.

“There may have been some billing that in retrospect is not consistent with the current understanding of how services are to be billed and for what amount,” he said. “But this is not an issue of the clinic taking money for HIV services and spending it on vacations to the Bahamas.”

Yesterday, city health officials sent a letter to officials in Virginia, Maryland and the federal government seeking a regional meeting next week on how to respond to recently announced layoffs and cutbacks at the clinic.

The organization is trying to close a $2.5 million shortfall. It has announced plans to cut more than 60 jobs, close a food bank, cut substance-abuse and housing programs.

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