INDIANAPOLIS - A psychologist who once practiced in southern Indiana appeared in court today on criminal charges that she fraudulently billed Medicaid more than $350,000 for patient therapy sessions that allegedly never took place.
Medea Woods, 68, made her initial appearance today in Jefferson County Circuit Court in Madison, Ind., on three felony charges filed by Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller under a special provision of state law that allows the Attorney General to prosecute criminal cases involving Medicaid fraud.
"The allegation here is that this psychologist submitted claims to Medicaid for reimbursement of certain therapy sessions where she did not see the patients, requiring taxpayers' dollars intended for patient health care to be diverted for the defendant's own purposes. The amount of money involved and other circumstances of this case are grounds for the filing of criminal charges under state law," Zoeller said.
From 2002 to 2007, Woods was enrolled as a Medicaid provider and offered psychologist services from her business, Burnham Woods Counseling North Inc. in Madison, Ind., and from her home in Rising Sun, Ind. The Medicaid program requires that providers abide by certain record-keeping rules in order to be reimbursed for treating patients.
According to a probable cause affidavit filed in court, an audit of claims Woods submitted found unusually high levels of billing by Woods compared to other Medicaid mental health providers in the vicinity. When auditors reviewing the claims interviewed Woods at her office, Woods could not produce 15 of the 41 records sought, the affidavit said.
The investigation of questionable billings was referred to the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) of the Indiana Attorney General's Office, which reviewed the claims data and interviewed patients with the assistance of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General (HHS/OIG). The investigation found Woods allegedly billed Medicaid for multiple therapy sessions for the same patient taking place on a single day or during the same week -- more frequently than her patients reported receiving services. Woods allegedly billed multiple claims for patients she saw only once, and allegedly billed for weekend therapy sessions that either did not occur or involved activities such as riding or caring for her horses that don't qualify as psychotherapy, the affidavit said.
The MFCU investigation found that Woods submitted $559,715 in claims to Medicaid between April 2002 and January 2007 but the majority of the claims lacked evidence that she legitimately provided services. Patients reported they did not receive as many services from the psychologist as she billed. The loss to the Medicaid program is calculated at more than $350,000.
Typically the Indiana Attorney General's Office does not have criminal jurisdiction; but under Indiana Code 12-15-23-6, the Attorney General can file criminal charges relating to Medicaid fraud with the permission of the county prosecutor. Jefferson County Prosecutor Chad Lewis authorized the Attorney General's Office to file the charges and litigate the case.
Last week, the Attorney General's Office formally charged Woods with theft, Medicaid fraud and identity deception, all Class C felonies. A conviction on any of the charges would carry a potential two- to eight-year prison sentence.
Now a resident of Rawlings, Wyoming, Woods waived extradition to Indiana and appeared today in Jefferson County Circuit Court in Madison, Ind., on the criminal charges. Bond is set at $4,000 cash only, and Senior Judge Fred Hoying set a pretrial conference date of April 13.
If a licensed psychologist were convicted of a felony, it could result in disciplinary action against the license by the Indiana Psychology Board. Woods' license expired in 2008, records show.
Zoeller thanked Prosecutor Lewis and Chief Deputy Prosecutor D.J. Mote of Jefferson County as well as HHS/OIG and the Justice Department for their assistance to MFCU in the lengthy investigation.
A criminal charge is an allegation and all defendants are considered innocent until proven guilty.
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