Attorney General Talks Medicaid Fraud and Elder Abuse in Prince George
By Sarah Steele Wilson
Sep 28, 2012, 10:40
photo by Sarah Steele Wilson
Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli paid a visit to the Prince George County Library on Monday to speak to the local chapter of Triad, a partnership that works through his office. Virginia has more triad chapters than any other state in the county, and Cuccinelli said he enjoys visiting them personally.
“It’s one of the highlights of what I do that is sort of below the radar, except for the people in the room, because prevention is a big part of what we like to focus on in the Attorney General’s office,” he said.
Triad a partnership between the Office of the Attorney General, local law enforcement officials, community groups and the senior citizens the program aim to protect by making sure they are aware of their rights and some of the crimes and scams that particularly target them.
“There is a whole category of criminal offenses where folks target older Virginians, older Americans, and part of the value of Triad is being able to talk to you all about that, keep you aware of them and frankly, as you’ll hear later...we’d like your help in trying to deal with some of it,” he told the crowd.
Consumer Protection is one of the major responsibilities of the Attorney General’s Office and Cuccinelli was one of the state Attorneys General involved in a reaching a settlement with the nation’s five largest banks, GMAC, Bank of America, Citigroup, J.P. Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo, that will provide relief for the victims of predatory lending practices.
photo by Sarah Steele Wilson
“For Virginia, this is going to mean approximately $480 million of monetary relief for Virginians,” he said.
Claim forms are in the mail now, but Cuccinelli warned the seniors of Prince George that scammers are active.
“When something like this pops up, we automatically get the scam artists coming out of the woodwork,” he said.
Within a week of two of the settlement, the Office of the Attorney General received numerous reports of scam phone calls related to the settlement, with the callers asking for bank account numbers in order to make direct deposits of settlement funds.
“Make no mistake about it, that’s a complete scam,” Cuccinelli said. “If they ask you, if they call you, this is the biggest red flag or them all...They call you, and ask you for your information, instead of you calling them, that should automatically tell you that this is not something I should be dealing with, that it’s probably a scam of some kind.”
Cuccinelli said Medicaid fraud is a major concern for older people, since they consume more healthcare services than any other demographic. It’s an issue the Attorney General’s office is involved in stopping and prosecuting.
“We have the best Medicaid Fraud and Control Unit in the whole country, among all 50 states,” Cuccinelli said.
The Medicaid Fraud and Control Unit also deals with elder abuse in facilities and by home healthcare programs that receive Medicaid and Medicare funds and represents the largest section of the Attorney General’s office.
Cuccinelli said that while the budget for the Office of the Attorney General has decreased since he took office, the unit related to such offenses has grown by 50 percent because healthcare fraud is so prevalent.
“Pretty much everything in my office has shrunk, except one section,” he said. “And that is the medicaid fraud and elder abuse unit.”
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, fraudulent billings to healthcare programs represent as much as 10 percent of total health care expenditures.
“In Virginia, medicaid is over $7 billion a year,” Cuccinelli said. “That means $700 million of fraud in Virginia a year if they’re even close to right.”
“These dollars aren’t just being stolen from tax payers,” he continued. “They’re being stolen from a pot of money that was set aside to take care of the poorer people in Virginia. That motivates me and the folks in my office a great deal.”
Cuccinelli cited a $1.5 billion settlement with Abbot Laboratories Inc., one of the largest healthcare fraud cases ever investigated by any state, as an example of the quality of work done by the state’s Medicaid Fraud and Control Unit.
He said that in 35 years the Medicaid Fraud and Control Unit has existed, it has recovered over $800 million. After Abbott’s guilty plea is received on Oct. 2, that number will jump to $2.3 billion, he said.
Cuccinelli asked his Triad audience for help in spotting Medicaid fraud by learning how to identify it.
Virginia residents can also help cut down on a crime the Office of the Attorney General handled more than 17,000 reports of last year by learning how to recognize dehydration, malnutrition pressure sores and other signs of elder abuse and neglect.
“Each of you all can help us by being eyes and ears for Virginia and help us with investigations that in some cases we would hope would lead to prosecutions,” he said.
He also urged the audience to exercise oversight over nursing homes by checking their inspection reports through the state health department.
“I will never accept the abuse and neglect of our infirmed seniors by what amounts to heartless care givers,” Cuccinelli said, urging individuals who suspect that friends or family members in nursing homes are being abused to call his office.
photo by Sarah Steele Wilson Prince George Sheriff, Bucky Allin, thanks Ken Cuccinelli for coming to the Triad meeting.
“Our seniors deserve better and we’re committed to ensuring that they’re treated with the dignity and respect that they’re due,” he said.
The turnout at the meeting in Prince George impressed Cuccinelli, who praised the audience for participating in a program he said helps prevent crime by enabling seniors to recognize the signs before they become victims.
“Partnerships like Triad allow us to work together as a team across the commonwealth to bring predators to justice and to ensure safety and peace of mind for more and more of our seniors across the commonwealth as well as their families,” he said.