Santa Barbara County agrees to $28 million settlement for billing issues

By KAREN VELIE

Santa Barbara County administrators agreed to settle a Department of Justice complaint over improper billing regarding low-income mental health patients, amounting to $28 million, according to an Oct. 11 press release.

In its complaint, the Department of Justice accuses Santa Barbara County Department of Behavioral Wellness administrative staff of pushing employees to aggressively bill Medi-Cal. Employees were then rewarded for exceeding billing goals and ignoring Medi-Cal requirements, according to the complaint.

While the county has agreed to pay the settlement, county officials stress that the complaint lists allegations only and that no determination of fault was reached.

“While the county does not concur with the tenor of the allegations made, it’s true that documentation requirements were not met in all instances,” said Assistant County Executive Terri Maus-Nisich.

The county agreed to pay $21.4 million for billing errors that took place from 2008 through 2018. In addition, the county will pay Judith Zissa, a former county employee and the whistleblower, $3 million for wrongful termination and $3.6 million for attorney fees.