Attorneys General seek broader authority to investigate, prosecute abuse of Medicaid recipients

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fraudulent Medicare and Kentucky Medicaid

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear joined with attorneys general from 36 states and the District of Columbia on Wednesday to send a letter urging the United States government to expand its policy regarding the use of federal funds to investigate and prosecute Medicaid abuse and neglect cases.

The National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) letter was sent to the United States Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price.

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Beshear said the federal government should change its policy so each state’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) could use federal funds to investigate and prosecute a wider range of Medicaid abuse and neglect cases, including those that occur in the home.

Beshear said his office’s MFCU currently investigates and prosecutes Medicaid provider fraud, resident abuse complaints in Medicaid-funded health care facilities, and receives and reviews abuse and neglect complaints through the Elder Abuse Hotline.

The rule change would allow Beshear’s MFCU, along with other state’s units, to handle the investigation and prosecution of Medicaid providers who provide their services in non-institutional settings.

“Kentucky’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit is working hard to protect Kentucky senior citizens and our most vulnerable,” Beshear said. “By changing out-of-date federal regulations, my office will have broader authority to directly help those suffering from abuse and prosecute their abusers.”

Beshear said statistics cited by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest that one in 10 persons living at home, age 65 and older, will become a victim of abuse. The CDC figures also suggest that most elder abuse is not ever detected, with one study concluding that for every case of elder abuse detected or reported, 23 more remain unknown.

For these reasons, the attorneys general assert in the letter, “…the current strict federal limitations on states’ ability to use MFCU assets to investigate abuse and neglect are outdated, arbitrarily restrict our ability to protect Medicaid beneficiaries from abuse and neglect as Congress intended, and should be replaced or eliminated.”

NAAG offered two changes to current federal regulations:

-Allow each state’s Medicaid Fraud Control Units federal funds to be used to investigate and prosecute abuse and neglect of Medicaid beneficiaries in non-institutional settings (i.e. home health care).
-Allow use of MFCU federal funds to freely screen or review all complaints or reports of whatever type, in whatever setting.

Beshear has made protecting Kentucky senior citizens one of his office’s core missions.

Upon taking office, one of the first steps Beshear took was to expand Kentucky’s Elder Abuse Hotline to 24/7 to help ensure seniors are protected both day and night.

To report any instances of patient abuse, neglect or exploitation to the Attorney General’s Elder Abuse Hotline call, 877-228-7384.

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Tom Kenny joined ABC 36 News in June of 2001 as a General Assignment Reporter. A native of Peoria, Illinois, he graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications from Western Illinois University. He currently anchors ABC 36 News at 5pm, 6pm and 11pm. Tom has more than three decades of experience in broadcast journalism. He is the only broadcast journalist in Lexington television history to be honored with a national Edward R. Murrow Award. Tom was recognized for reporting on a story that gave a rare glimpse inside the secretive world of the Federal Witness Protection Program. He has won an Emmy Award for anchoring and another for investigative reporting, exposing the deceit and potential danger of online diploma mills. Tom has ten other Emmy nominations to his credit for investigative and feature reporting. He has won Associated Press Awards for reporting and anchoring. He has won two Addy Awards for excellence in promotional writing. Tom was the first broadcast journalist in Lexington TV history to be awarded the Silver Circle Award by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. It is one of the highest honors given by NATAS. It recognizes television professionals who have performed distinguished service within the television industry for 25-years or more. Tom was honored for more than his longevity, he was recognized for making an enduring contribution to the vitality of the television industry and for setting high standards of achievement. He was also recognized for giving back to the community as a mentor, educator and volunteer. Tom also has network broadcast experience in radio and television having worked as a sports reporter for ESPN, Sportschannel, NBC Sports and the Breeders’ Cup. He was also the studio host and halftime producer for CBS Radio Sports’ College Football Game of the Week and covered the NFL for One-On-One Radio Sports. Prior to joining WTVQ-TV, Tom was Vice-President of the Houston Astros Minor League baseball team in Lexington. He was part of the original management team that brought professional baseball back to the Bluegrass after a nearly 50-year absence. Tom has lived in Lexington since 1984. In that time, he has been heavily involved with dozens of charity and civic groups, with a special emphasis on helping Veterans. He can be reached at tkenny@wtvq.com. You can also follow Tom on Facebook www.facebook.com/TomKennyABC and Twitter @TomKennyNews. Just click on the links at the top of the page.