Hearing for psychologist Medea Woods, charged with $350K Medicaid fraud

April 26, 2011

A psychologist who once practiced in Madison had a pretrial hearing in Jefferson Circuit Court this week on criminal charges that she fraudulently billed Medicaid more than $350,000 for patient therapy sessions that prosecutors said never took place.

Medea Woods, 68, had a pretrial conference 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.

"This does not happen very often. It is very rare for the attorney general's office to file criminal charges," said Bryan Corbin, a public information officer with the attorney general's office. Jefferson County Prosecutor Chad Lewis authorized the attorney general's office to file the charges and litigate the case.

The pretrial hearing was held via a conference call because Woods currently lives in Wyoming.

Corbin said the deputy attorney generals at the hearing filed a motion for a protective order for patient records. This was done to ensure any private information regarding Woods' patients could not be made public through the course of the trial. Corbin said the judge took the issue under consideration, but did not make a ruling on the motion.

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 and from her home in Rising Sun.

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 that Woods submitted found unusually high levels of billing by Woods compared with other Medicaid mental health providers in the vicinity. When auditors reviewing the claims interviewed Woods at her office, she 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 of the Indiana attorney general's office, which reviewed the claims data and interviewed patients with the assistance of the Office of Inspector General in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The investigation alleged that Woods 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. The affidavit also said Woods allegedly billed multiple claims for patients she saw only once, and 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 Medicaid Fraud Control Unit 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.

The attorney general's office has charged Woods with theft, Medicaid fraud and identity deception, all Class C felonies. A conviction on any of the charges could carry a potential two- to eight-year prison sentence.

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.

Wood's trial date is set for Nov. 15.  No other actions are scheduled at this time.

Source: Evan Shields, "Hearing held for psychologist charged with Medicaid fraud," Madison Courier, April 15, 2011.


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