AHF Must Face Overbilling Claims, Judge Rules

LOS ANGELES — The AIDS Healthcare Foundation must face claims by Los Angeles County officials that it overbilled the county $5.2 million for patient treatment, a judge ruled this week.

The AHF, according to Law360, is on the defensive in a suit it initially filed against the county in August 2013 that alleged county officials conspired to intimidate healthcare providers that disagree with them by filing incorrect audit reports.

Claiming retaliation, the AHF at the time also had accused Los Angeles County; Dr. Jonathan Fielding, the director of the county's Department of Public Health; and county supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky of targeting it because it publicly disagreed with them on policy issues — in particular, Measure B, the condom ordinance for porn shoots.

In court papers, the AHF claimed that AHF President Michael Weinstein's public activism for getting Measure B, as well as the Los Angeles City condom ordinance, generated "considerable opposition and animus" amongst Los Angeles County officials toward the nonprofit because they did not want to enforce Measure B.

In a ruling this week, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Paul Linfield rejected an argument by AHF attorney Arti Bhimani that the county would have to show the federal government was forcing it to cover the alleged overpayments with its own money to bring a viable contract claim.

Linfield tentatively ruled that Los Angeles County was contractually obligated to monitor how the money was spent in the federal government’s stead, according to Law360.

 “The federal government is not going to come in and audit all of this,” Linfield said in Monday’s hearing. “That’s not the way the world works.”

County officials won their bid to dismiss the foundation’s retaliation claims last year, but the court kept alive the AHF’s claim it’s not required to provide accounting of costs between those that can be reimbursed by Medicare, Medicaid or private insurance, Law 360 said.

The county has demanded repayment of the $5.2 million in funds, but AHF officials have refused.