9NEWS Chris Vanderveen and Dave Altman arrive at the law offices of Messner Reeves LLP to deliver the $169,600 check. (Photo: 9NEWS)
“It’s not a great feeling,” said Altman as we approached the law offices of Messner Reeves LLP in downtown Denver.
Slowly, he began to write a series of numbers and letters into his checkbook.
“I don’t even know if I can fit in on the line,” he said with a dry smile.
Dave Altman writes out the check for $169,600 to deliver to Adrian Panther's attorney. (Photo: 9NEWS/Anna Hewson)
One-hundred-sixty-nine thousand, six hundred and no dollars.
More than nine months after he received the massive check from UnitedHealth, Altman had come to the conclusion this was no longer a battle he was willing to fight.
“It just infuriates me,” he told me. “Nobody wants to say, ‘Stop! This shouldn’t happen.’”
Dave Altman wrote a check for $169,600. Parts of the check have been redacted. (Photo: 9NEWS/Anna Hewson)
Minutes later, we took the elevator and walked into a large, well-furnished law firm. This is probably the time to tell you that in addition to Dave Altman’s real check, we also arrived with a large, oversized novelty check in hand as well.
You know, the kind of check you might see when someone wins a lottery or something like that.
“Is Kate Bailey here?” I asked.
Women working at the front desk of Messner Reeves LLP were surprised by the large check 9NEWS Chris Vanderveen delivered. (Photo: 9NEWS)
“Is this for real?” asked a woman at the front desk.
“This is for real,” I replied.
Unfortunately, that day Kate Bailey was apparently not in.
Bruce Montoya, a partner at Messner Reeves was, however.
Bruce Montoya speaks with 9NEWS Chris Vanderveen and David Altman. (Photo: 9NEWS)
Initially, he approached us with a big smile on his face.
“That’s too funny, that’s too funny,” he said.
I then asked him a question.
“Can somebody tell me why it’s $169,000?” I asked.
“No idea,” replied Montoya.
“No Idea whatsoever?” I asked.
“Attorney-client privilege,” he said.
“Any idea what an IOM procedure might cost?” I asked.
“Attorney-client privilege,” he said as he walked away.
Hours later, Kate Bailey emailed me.
Here is her email in its entirety:
“Dear Mr. Vanderveen,
I was out of the office today when individuals presumably from your office appeared to present a Publishers Clearing House style-check for Medical Practice Solutions. Those individuals were greeted by Mr. Montoya under the false representation that you were clients of mine, which, to my knowledge, violates any journalist code of ethics to which I presume you adhere.
Be aware that the check was delivered only after several back and forth discussions with Mr. Altman in which he attempted to negotiate retaining a piece of the check. A check that he was not entitled to for services that he did not perform. That attempt was both extortionist and his withholding of those funds constituted civil theft. Perhaps that is where you should focus your inquiry.”
Here is my response, again, in its entirety:
“I can assure you at no time did we misrepresent ourselves as clients of yours. I believe your front office staff may have misinterpreted the nature of our visit. We merely came to accompany Mr. Altman as he hand-delivered payment to your office.
That being said, we are continuing our efforts to better understand the billing practices of your client.
To date, we have yet to receive a statement from you or Mr. Panther that might explain why, in this instance, BHLH decided to charge a patient (and thus her insurance company) $169,600 for an IOM procedure.
During the course of our reporting for this broadcast, we have interviewed industry insiders and national experts in an effort to better understand IOM billing practices. What we have found so far tells us that a $169,600 charge falls well outside the established norms within the industry itself. In fact, one Colorado IOM company, after reviewing Mrs. Altman’s bill, told us they would have charged her less than $8,000 for the exact same procedure. A national expert in medical billing literally laughed out loud when I told her what BHLH was asking for in this case.
Here’s where I hope you or Mr. Panther can assist us with an explanation of why this procedure was so costly.
This is your chance to help me understand this before we go to air. As it stands now, neither you or [sic] Mr. Panther has given me an explanation. Minus any additional comment from you, I will [have] little choice but to report on the information as I now have it – information that suggests this particular charge falls well outside established norms.
Our story will be naming not only Mr. Panther, BHLH and South Downing, but it will also be naming you and your law firm. Should you or Mr. Panther choose not to respond to this email with a detailed explanation (our preference would be an on camera explanation), we will be obliged to report that both you and Mr. Panther refused comment.
As always, I can be reached directly on my cell or via this email address. I look forward to hearing from you.”
That email was sent more than six weeks ago.
We have yet to receive a response.
For more tips on this or any other story, contact Chris Vanderveen: firstname.lastname@example.org, Katie Wilcox, email@example.com or, for those in Minnesota, Steve Eckert, firstname.lastname@example.org
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