Local pharmacy crumbles under Medicaid pressure

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

OAKLAND, Maine - True to his word, Bob Nutting, owner of True’s Pharmacy, closed his business’s doors in the midst of a legal fray with the state’s Department of Health and Human Services.

Nutting had promised, after laying off eight of 23 employees in December 2002, that he would close his pharmacy before handing out more pink slips.

“I suppose we might have let 10 of the remaining go and struggled along a few more months,” said Nutting, “but that was a decision I was unwilling to make.”

The closing was the result of True’s inability to reach an agreement with the state on the alleged overbilling of the state’s Medicaid program, Maine Care.

DHS offered a settlement of $850,000 with the stipulation that True’s produce $400,000 worth of missing invoices for incontinence supplies, said DHS spokesman Newel Auger. The state already had recouped nearly $250,000 through withheld Medicaid payments before True’s quit the program, resulting in the loss of 60% of its business.

“There is no settlement unless True’s is willing to acknowledge that they do not have invoices for $400,000 of the taxpayer’s money,” he said. “They are claiming that the state should just walk away from that amount, and we can’t do that.”

Nutting maintains the missing invoices are insignificant, accounting for only 5% of sales over the five year period and that the state keeps changing its requirements and figures each time a settlement is about to be reached.

“The tragedy is that if they hadn’t done that we would today still have 23 employees and the state would have its money,” he said.