Aging unit's chief to use trial to tout health reform

December 19, 1993|By Traci A. Johnson | Traci A. Johnson,Staff Writer

Richard M. Warehime already took his health care concerns to Washington.

Now, he's taking them to court.

The chairman of the Carroll County Commission on Aging said he will use the day he spends in court -- defending himself against charges of reneging on an agreement to pay about $400 in medical bills for his elderly parents -- to stress the need for health care reform.

"It's not a big item," Mr. Warehime, 70, who has power of attorney for his parents, said about the amount he owes. "It's the principle."

In a suit filed in Carroll County District Court, the Chesapeake Assessment and Treatment Center claims that Mr. Warehime entered into a written agreement with the company to pay for physical therapy it provided for his parents.

The company then treated Russell Warehime for arthritis from Aug. 2 until Aug. 28, 1992, and Margaret Warehime for a broken leg from Sept. 25 until Nov. 11, 1992. The total costs were $741 and $1,180, respectively.

Medicare and other health insurance paid the bulk of both bills, but Mr. Warehime has not paid the balance for either parent's care, according to court documents.

Mr. Warehime's concern for his parents led him to participate a health care forum in September at the White House with President Clinton, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Vice President Al Gore, Tipper Gore and 21 others who had written to Mrs. Clinton's task force on health care reform.

Mr. Warehime now intends to use the courtroom as a forum to inform the public that health care providers are rendering services in a manner he believes "borders on fraud."

He said he is contesting his mother's therapy because he believes the costs were excessive. But he is also upset that he was not notified about his father's therapy before it started so he could have prevented what he thought was a waste of time.

He also said he doesn't know whether his father's doctor, Daniel Welliver, authorized the therapy. Mr. Warehime said the doctor had repeatedly told Mr. Warehime that "nothing could be done" to cure the elder Warehime's arthritis.

"Nowhere was a I ever told that they were going to do therapy on the arthritic knees of a 91-year-old man," Mr. Warehime said. "I would have thought it was a waste of time, based on what the doctor [Dr. Welliver] had told me time and time again."

The treatment center's office manager, Kathy Warehime -- not related to Mr. Warehime -- said she could not comment on an individual case because of patient confidentiality rules, but said company policy requires authorization from the patient's doctor before therapy is administered.

"Medicare requires signed treatment orders from the referring physician, which must be recertified every 30 days," Ms. Warehime said. "Our therapists also communicate, both verbally and in writing, with the treating physician."

Mr. Warehime said he has seen no evidence of the success of the therapy and questions whether it was administered at all.

Ms. Warehime said family members or people with power of attorney can receive reports on the treated patient's medical progress if they ask.

Regardless of the outcome of his trial, scheduled for Jan. 24, Mr. Warehime said he wants people to discuss and debate the health care issue at the root of his case.

"I may still have to pay this bill and some other costs, but at least I will have been able to put the issue in front of the public," he said.

"I'm of the opinion that after reading all the articles and books I have on health care, that somebody has to be heard on this thing," Mr. Warehime said. "If something isn't done, I don't know what is going to happen to our [health care] system."

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