November Waste Watcher Report:
Medicaid Fraud Robs NY Taxpayers
Guarding the taxpayers' hard-earned money and ensuring it is not wasted is one of the primary responsibilities of our elected officials. Here in New York, our leadership has failed in this key job. New York spent $53 billion last year on Medicaid, the fraud-riddled health program for the poor – $11,000 per participant. That is four times the national average. A family of four in New York spends $5,000 per year to support Medicaid. Every dollar wasted or stolen from government programs represents a cop not hired, a pothole not repaired, and a heavier tax burden on the hard-working citizens of the state. Politicians occasionally pay lip service to the colossal waste when it is thrust in the public eye, but then retreat back to business-as-usual with the well-connected interests of the status quo.
How much fraud and waste is inherent in any big-government program? 15-20% is a common estimate. From time to time, we see the tip of the iceberg. A gang of con artists was recently arrested for an auto-insurance scam ring in which they created fake accidents and doctor's reports to cash in. They quickly discovered the real money was in bilking New York Medicaid funds, and began billing for $15,000 motorized wheelchairs for nonexistent victims. The con went on for years, stealing millions from the taxpayers, never to be recovered. Where is the oversight? Whose job was it to verify the claims? Who gets fired or reprimanded for such gross negligence with taxpayer funds? Apparently, nobody. When government programs become so bloated, it becomes impossible to hold anyone accountable for preventing the fraud. Politicians look the other way. Nobody watches the taxpayers' money.
According to reports, last year New York spent $1.4 billion in Medicaid money on unnecessary hospital admissions for people whose illnesses – like asthma or a cold, should have been treated by a family physician or a neighborhood doctor at a fraction of the cost. This is an egregious abuse, not by the sick people who will naturally avail themselves of any free care, but by the politicians and officials who fail to prevent it. Consider how that money could have been used to repair bridges and roads, improve education, or reduce our state's crushing tax burden. Why is there no outcry? Because the hospitals and health care interests that profit from the overpayments contribute mightily to the politicians who ignore the abuse. Last year, Governor Cuomo's Office of the Welfare's Inspector General had its staff reduced to two. Inspector general Sean Courtney has requested more staff. "It's something we are carefully examining in next year's budget", Cuomo recently said. Two people to investigate an estimated $10 billion in waste? Who is protecting the taxpayer's money? Who is watching the watchers?
Margaret Thatcher once said, "The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money." Witness what is happening to the bloated welfare states of Europe, like Greece and Italy, as decades of skyrocketing taxes and runaway government waste destroy once-proud countries. America and New York State, sadly, are on a similar trajectory. Unless we elect fiscally prudent leadership, unbeholden to special interests, who will root out the waste, fraud, and abuse, a similar fate awaits us.
Candidate, New York State Assembly
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Kieran Michael Lalor is a former high school teacher, Marine Corps veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and founder of the consulting firm KML Strategies, LLC. He is a graduate of Providence College and Pace Law School and is currently pursuing an MBA at Pace University's Lubin School of Business. Lalor is the founder of Afghanistan & Iraq Veterans for Congress (AIVC) and the author of the book This Recruit.
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Lalor For Assembly
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