Thursday, March 07, 2002

Audit clears me, lt. gov. says

The Associated Press

        FRANKFORT — Lt. Gov. Steve Henry says an audit shows he didn't try to cheat the federal government out of money and is, instead, owed money for surgeries he performed.

        A federal grand jury has been reviewing bills from Dr. Henry's orthopedic surgery practice to reimbursement programs like Medicaid and Medicare. It is investigating whether Dr. Henry actually performed or supervised surgeries for which he billed the government.

        Mike Stigler, a certified public accountant hired by Dr. Henry's malpractice insurance company, was hired to audit 200 of Dr. Henry's billings that federal investigators are examining.

        Mr. Stigler said that over the past six years, Dr. Henry performed dozens of surgeries without being paid by Medicaid, Medicare or private insurance companies.

        Dr. Henry has been the lieutenant governor since 1995, but practices medicine part
time. He has refused a teaching salary from the University of Louisville and is not compensated for seeing more than 1,000 patients per year at Louisville's charity clinic, where he volunteers three hours each Monday to serve uninsured homeless people.

        Dr. Henry said the underbillings total about $500,000, but his attorney, Jack Smith, couldn't confirm that number.

        “I have no idea if that's right,” Mr. Smith said Wednesday.

        Dr. Henry has maintained he's done nothing wrong. Mr. Smith admits there might have been some billing mistakes.

        “If you work a lot in the health-care area, you know Medicare and Medicaid billings are a problem with just about anybody across the industry,” Mr. Smith said. “It's a confused area.”

        Mr. Smith said he hasn't reviewed Mr. Stigler's audit.

        For now, Mr. Smith said, the audit doesn't change the status of the investigation.

        “Nothing has changed as far as that's concerned,” he said.

        Dr. Henry was cleared of wrongdoing in October when a state ethics panel announced the findings of an investigation into his wedding to former Miss America Heather French.

        Dozens of state employees helped stage the October 2000 wedding, but the panel found no evidence that the employees were coerced into helping or did so on state time.


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