Audit questions Medicaid payments to Salem Halfway House

From the Salem Statesman Journal, March 1 2009

Group home owner drew scrutiny in ’08 at Harmony Manor

The owner of Harmony Manor, a troubled Salem boarding house that attracted scrutiny last year for its bleak living conditions, now must answer to a state audit that found she received Medicaid overpayments totaling nearly $1 million while operating five group homes in other Oregon cities.

A preliminary state audit report released to the Statesman Journal says that Julieta Lacandazo failed to keep adequate records to document Medicaid payments from the state totaling $993,138.

“Whether it’s just poor record keeping and everything is on the up-and-up or not, we don’t know at this point,” said Trisha Baxter, administrator of the state Office of Payment Accuracy and Recovery. “All we know is that the records we need to substantiate (Lacandazo’s Medicaid claims) are not there.”

The money flowed to Lacandazo through billings she submitted to the state for operating five adult foster homes and group homes for people with disabilities in Beaverton, Aloha and Lake Oswego, records show.

Lacandazo now is on the hook to deliver records that refute the audit findings. If she can’t produce such records, the state could require her to pay back some or all of the $993,000.

“It’s an overpayment because based on the documentation available the claim should not have been paid,” Baxter said. “The claim has been paid. Now we need that back.”

The audit did not delve into Lacandazo’s record keeping or finances at Harmony Manor. Under a 1990 system approved by state legislators, privately run boarding homes such as Harmony Manor receive far less state oversight than licensed, staffed facilities for people with mental disabilities. The state does not license boarding homes or conduct regular inspections of them.