North Carolina Department of Correction news release

Medical Review Saves $500,000

JANUARY 20, 1997

RALEIGH - Some medical bills are as difficult to read as a doctor’s scribble. That’s why two women from the correction medical staff and two from the accounting office joined forces to review medical bills and found more than a half a million dollars in excessive charges over a four-month period.

A careful review of nearly 5,000 medical bills from July 1 to Nov. 30 turned up $556,000 in excessive or unauthorized charges and another $870,000 in questionable claims which are pending while more information is obtained.

"Catching these errors is exactly what Governor Jim Hunt ordered when he charged state employees with rooting out inefficiencies and waste in government," Correction Secretary Mack Jarvis said. "I’m thrilled that the Department of Correction’s controllers office and medical staff took the initiative to work together and help manage tax dollars."

Director of Health Services Bert Rosefield saw the need for a more careful review of medical bills since correction accountants were unfamiliar with the medical terminology and needed an interpreter. Rosefield contracted with Linda Young to organize a pilot project which brought together Dianne Smith and Chandra Clark from the medical staff, and Mary Ellen Minges and temporary employee Keisha Graham from the accounting office. The four began reviewing medical bills item by item and discovered a number of unwarranted charges.

Correction Controller Sam Newman said that the accuracy of the review process exceeded expectations, with less than a tenth of a percent of claims appealed by the medical industry.

"These four women have taken on this project in addition to their regular work load, and they well deserve their reputation as being the watch dog of prison health care expenses," Newman said. "We plan to continue scrutinizing medical bills and being a good steward of taxpayer’s money."

Actual expenditures for inmate medical care services was nearly $78 million during the last fiscal year. The department runs two prison hospitals, has infirmaries at three prisons, and a number of staff nurses and contract doctors for each of the other prisons. The Department of Correction runs 87 prisons which hold 32,000 offenders. The department, by law, is required to provide proper medical care for the prisoners.