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Acupuncturist who questioned billing practices gets hate mail


Three weeks after a local acupuncturist questioned a competitor's billing practices during the December County Commission meeting at which the county put a cap on future insurance payments for such treatment by its employees, she received an ugly letter allegedly sent by several dozen employees.

Angela King, who owns Indian River Acupuncture & Integrative Medicine, said the typed, one-page piece of hate mail – unsigned, but bearing 40 hand-written initials – was mailed to both her office and her barrier island home in envelopes bearing a "fake" return address.

Alarmed by its contents, King forwarded the letter to County Administrator Jason Brown, who turned it over to the Sheriff's Office.

"It's something I take very seriously," Brown said. "If this was done by county employees, that is highly inappropriate conduct and something we won't tolerate.

"We tried to track it down by checking to see if it was created on one of our computers, but we couldn't find it," he added. "So we then sent it to the Sheriff's Office, but, as far as I know, they still haven't been able to tie it to anyone in particular."

The nine-paragraph letter, dated Jan. 5, claimed to be from "County Employees" and was intended "To Inform" King that they were upset about her "deplorable statements about the office that helped heal our ailments."

It referred to King, a lifelong Vero Beach resident, as a "mean and cruel person" and a "hateful soul" who is "cold and ruthless" and wants to "destroy people and families."

The letter went on to state that the aforementioned employees "WILL NEVER" seek treatment at King's office, and they "hope before you die you recognize what a horrible person you are." It also called her a "bully" who does not "qualify to be called human."

Three times in the letter, King was warned that she was being watched – something that could be considered a veiled threat:

• "You are being watched, not to harm you, but to watch you suffer" for her remarks to the County Commission.

• "Know that everybody is watching, hoping you will fail."

• "We are here to inform you that we are watching you. We do not hate you. We pity you and those around you."

King, who launched her practice 10 years ago, said Monday she has not been contacted by the Sheriff's Office, but has sent one of the two letters to be checked for fingerprints.

"It saddens me that whoever wrote the letter has so much hate and anger in their hearts," King said. "I wish they could understand what happened and why, and I hope they heal from this."

King attended the Dec. 20 County Commission meeting at the request of a patient who was concerned the county would discontinue its health-insurance coverage for acupuncture.

It was at that meeting that the county's human resources director, Suzanne Boyll, recommended to commissioners the acupuncture benefit be eliminated after discovering that the self-insured county had paid out more than $1.1 million to one local practice – Jill Jaynes' Absolute Integrated Medicine – during the 2016 fiscal year.

Boyll said 221 county-insured patients filed acupuncture claims for more than 8,200 visits to Absolute in fiscal 2016, and that the county's payouts to the out-of-network practice had quadrupled over a four-year period.

Boyll attributed the surge in visits and skyrocketing payouts to Jaynes' policy of not requiring a co-insurance payment, and decided the acupuncture benefit was too costly to continue.

Instead, the commissioners voted to cap the county's acupuncture coverage, which now allows only 26 visits per year with a maximum payout of $1,500 per patient. They reached their decision after King gave an impromptu tutorial on "ethical acupuncture billing."

It was while educating the commissioners, who asked numerous questions during what became a lengthy session, that King cast doubt on Jaynes' billing practices.

"I didn't go there to steal anyone's patients," King said. "Eliminating acupuncture coverage was on the agenda, and I saved the benefit for county employees."

"Ms. King did the county a service," Brown said. "She provided us with the expertise we needed, and I thank her for what she did."

Brown said Florida Blue, which administers the county's health insurance plan, continues to investigate Jaynes' billing and the claims filed by her patients.

Jaynes, who disputes the county's numbers, said she stopped accepting county insurance on Jan. 1.