Albany, N.Y., March 8 – The Senate Republican Task Force on Medicaid Fraud is holding a public hearing in Albany today in an effort to jump-start action on a more effective strategy to combat Medicaid fraud, State Senator George Winner (R-C-I, Elmira), a member of the recently created task force, said today.
Chemung County Executive Tom Santulli, who’s also currently president of the New York State Association of Counties, will testify at today’s hearing. Guy Amisano, chief executive officer of the Horseheads-based Salient Corporation, is also slated to appear. Salient has developed computer software, already being used in Chemung and nearly a dozen other counties statewide, that some officials believe could point the way to hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars in Medicaid fraud and waste prevention at the state level.
[In the photo above, Winner and Santulli, left, meet prior to the public forum in Hearing Room A of the Legislative Office Building.]
Winner, a long-time Medicaid reform advocate, said that the new task force has been charged with developing recommendations for action in this year’s state budget to combat what some fiscal watchdogs believe could potentially be billions of taxpayer dollars being lost to abuse, fraud, and waste in New York’s more than $50-billion Medicaid system.
“Why can’t we put a stop to the scams and rip-offs that, regrettably, define New York’s system of Medicaid? That’s the fundamental question,” Winner said. “Medicaid plays a necessary and vital role in the health and well-being of many of New York’s working families, persons with disabilities, and others. But it’s way past time to put in place a ‘zero tolerance’ policy to combat the millions upon millions, if not billions of taxpayer dollars being lost to Medicaid fraud and waste.”
On Monday, the task force will receive testimony from district attorneys at the forefront of prosecuting Medicaid fraud, representatives of cutting-edge corporations in the field of Medicaid oversight, and county executives who have been widely recognized for their efforts to improve the system.
Winner said that the urgency of the state’s fiscal crisis demands a renewed focus on the fraud that has plagued the Medicaid system for years. In his proposed 2010-2011 state budget, New York Governor David Paterson increased the state’s target for Medicaid fraud recovery by $300 million, which Winner said isn’t nearly enough.
As late as last December, for example, the state comptroller’s office released audits showing nearly $100 million in Medicaid overpayments, billing errors, and other problems. A report issued earlier this year by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services ranked New York 26th in the nation in Medicaid fraud recovery. According to the report, states such as Missouri and North Carolina recover about three times as much in Medicaid fraud, while six other states recover twice as much as New York.
Despite the fact that they are on the front lines of the Medicaid program, county officials are saying the state inhibits their efforts to stop fraud at the local level. In fact, the 2009-10 state budget enacted by Paterson and the Democratic leaders of the Legislature last April eliminated the eligibility requirements for face-to-face interviews, finger-imaging and asset tests for applicants for Medicaid that are conducted by counties. The interviews are intended to ensure accountability in the system, but will no longer be required as of April 2010.