JOHNSTOWN - A Fulton County legislative committee recently supported the county contracting with two law firms to try to recover past Medicaid reimbursement the state owes the county. Officials say money owed could exceed $300,000.
The Board of Supervisors' Human Services Committee approved the retainer contract Tuesday, contingent upon approval by County Attorney Arthur Spring and the full board.
Attorney Christopher Buckey of the Albany law firm of Whiteman, Osterman & Hanna LLP gave a presentation on money owed to the county, which is called "overburden" repayment. He said his firm only seeks money for upstate counties.
Buckey said the state owes all counties in the state expenses for certain mentally-disabled patients. He said the state maintains records and sends quarterly reports to counties.
"Mysteriously in the 1990s, a number of these patients started getting dropped from the report," Buckey said. "The state stopped reimbursement. Fulton County was denied a significant amount of reimbursement."
Buckey said his firm - and another unidentified firm - have teamed up to recover money due to several counties. He estimated Fulton County might be owed more than $300,000, and the firms will recover the money for a 36 percent contingency.
The lawyer said the claims are submitted to the state Department of Health, but the entire process involves extensive litigation. He said the legal firms have won all 30 trials they've been involved in and recovered $20 million for nine counties.
"They [the state] admit they owe the money," Buckey said.
Buckey said the state estimates it may still owe counties about $180 million, although the lawyers claim it may be in a different range. He's not sure exactly how much Fulton County is owed.
"We won't know until we go through the records," Buckey said.
He said the courts agree there is no statute of limitations on recovery of the Medicaid reimbursement.
"Right now, we're going back to 1995, although realistically, there are expenses back to 1982," Buckey said. "But there are no records. The state destroyed the records."
Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at email@example.com.