By Paula Katinas
Bay Ridge — Medicaid fraud is rampant because New York State threw out the tools designed to catch cheaters, according to local lawmakers, who called on the state to reinstate the fraud-prevention measures.
State Sen. Marty Golden and Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis held a press conference inside their joint office at 7408 Fifth Ave. on Feb. 27 to push for the passage of bills aimed at combating Medicaid fraud.
Specifically, Golden and Malliotakis want all residents who are applying to receive Medicaid benefits to undergo means testing to determine if they truly qualify for state aid.
The Senate and Assembly bills being championed by the two Republican-Conservative lawmakers call for the reinstatement of the asset testing requirements to qualify for Medicaid.
The asset tests were repealed by the state three years ago, according to Golden, who said the action resulted in an increase in fraud.
Making matters worse, Golden said, is that there is little the state could do to combat the massive fraud.
There are wealthy people who live in mansions and drive Cadillacs who are collecting taxpayer-funded Medicaid benefits, Golden said.
“The year 2010 saw more than $5 billion in Medicaid fraud in New York. Last year, we had dozens of reports of the most wealthy scamming the system and stealing benefits that are meant for the neediest in our society,” Golden said. “Today we stand here to say enough is enough.”
Golden reinforced the importance of asset testing in trying to prevent these scams.
“Asset testing simply gives the state and city the power to stop fraud before it starts, and assure that the only people who get government assistance are those who truly need it,” Golden said.
“Waste, fraud, and abuse are plaguing nearly all of our social service programs, while resources are being taken from people who truly need them by corrupt individuals robbing taxpayer dollars for their own benefit,” Malliotakis said.
The proof is in the numbers, Malliotakis said.
“New York spends approximately 24 percent more on Medicaid than California, yet California has 17 million more residents,” she said. “I am proud to join Sen. Golden in calling for reinstatement of the Medical Resource Asset Test, as Medicaid fraud costs New York State $5 billion annually and is becoming all too common in our community.”
The asset testing process that was formerly in place in New York State included face-to-face interviews with applicants, according to Golden, who said it should be brought back. Up until 2009, anyone who applied for Medicaid also had to agree to have their assets looked at, so that the state could be sure that they qualified and were in need of this program.
“Fraud is rampant in these entitlement programs, and we must act to prevent this,” Golden said. “These are taxpayer dollars meant to provide health care for the most needy. They deserve these programs, and we must continue to provide them, but far too often the well-off are stealing from the system. We must do everything we can to prevent this from continuing.”