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8/31/12: Poloncarz: Erie County Medicaid Anti-Fraud Task Force Taking Shape


Announces Appointment of Michael Szukala to Erie County Medicaid Inspector General Post

ERIE COUNTY, NY— Today, Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz announced that Michael Szukala, MBA, CIA will become Erie County’s first Medicaid Inspector General, starting on September 4, 2012.

“Medicaid represents the single largest cost to Erie County, and with the creation of the Erie County Medicaid Anti-Fraud Task Force earlier this summer, my administration intends to take aggressive action to root out the provider-level waste, fraud, and abuse that inherently exist within Medicaid,” said Poloncarz. “This task force is beginning to take shape, and today I am proud to announce Mike Szukala as Erie County’s first Medicaid Inspector General. Mike has spent his entire career as an auditor, safeguarding the taxpayers’ dollars, and I cannot think of a more qualified and honest individual to take on this fight.”

“As the Erie County Deputy Comptroller and an auditor for the City of Buffalo, I have spent my entire career working to ensure that government works as efficiently and effectively as possible,” said Szukala. “With more than $1 billion on the line every single year, it is our responsibility to ensure that every Medicaid dollar is accounted for and spent properly. I thank the Poloncarz administration for the honor of leading this task force.”

Szukala is a Certified Internal Auditor with more than 23 years of governmental accounting and auditing experience and, most recently, has served as the Erie County Deputy Comptroller-Audit Division since 2006. He will start in the Medicaid Inspector General’s position on Tuesday, September 4, 2012.

Under his leadership, the Comptroller’s Audit Division has been molded into an inspector-general type organization that has completed more than 60 audits and reviews identifying more than $30 million in tax dollar savings. In 2007, the Division was awarded the Association of Local Government Auditors’ prestigious Bronze Knighton Award for excellence within the governmental auditing profession for an audit of the Erie County Holding Center and Correctional facility. Erie County is the only New York State municipality to ever win the award, and has been nominated seven (7) additional times.

Additionally, Szukala implemented the Erie County Waste, Fraud, and Abuse Tip Line, which has responded to more than 300 anonymous tips from taxpayers since 2008, and has acted as Secretary to the Erie County Audit Committee, the Charter-mandated board tasked with selecting the County’s external auditor and reporting on the implementation of recommendations.

Szukala, who possesses a Masters in Business Administration from SUNY at Buffalo as well as a Bachelors’ of Science in Accounting  from the University of Dayton, also served as a Supervising Auditor for the City of Buffalo Comptroller’s Office from 1988-2006.

The Medicaid Inspector General will oversee the newly created Medicaid Anti-Fraud Task Force, which will utilize the latest data-mining and investigatory tools to root out provider-level waste, fraud, and abuse in Medicaid. This unit will serve to lower and help contain costs through the active investigation and auditing of Medicaid providers and the subsequent recovery of illegally obtained Medicaid funds. Additionally, the public presence of the unit will act as a strong deterrent to future waste, fraud, and abuse by providers.

The new task force will be 100% state funded through a partnership with the New York State Department of Health (“NYSDOH”) and the office of the Medicaid Inspector general (“OMIG”). Erie County will be the ‘flagship’ of the State’s revamped Demonstration Project process and become the largest municipality outside of New York City to partner with the State on stamping out provider waste and abuse.

Eleven (“11”) other counties and New York City have participated in earlier versions of OMIG’s Demonstration Project and some have experienced success in not only deterring fraud but identifying and recovering illegally obtained Medicaid payments to vendors. Recent successes include Monroe County identifying nearly $12 million in Medicaid claim overpayments made to local providers, with OMIG taking action to successfully recover more than $4 million. Monroe County’s local share of these collections amounted to $515,745. New York City was also recently presented with $278,642 which represented their local share of more than $10 million in Medicaid funds recovered over the past three years.

Medicaid is the single largest cost to Erie County, costing taxpayers more than $1 billion annually, with a local share of $211.7 million in Fiscal Year 2012. As such, instead of just pointing the finger at Albany for costs that are out of local control, Poloncarz has long advocated for working to lower the costs we can control – those associated with the waste, fraud, and abuse that invariably exist within Medicaid.

  • In 2009, as Comptroller, Poloncarz issued a report examining Erie County’s Medicaid Anti-Fraud Processes, which found that despite various mechanisms available, the County was not actively engaging in any efforts to control provider fraud.   Poloncarz subsequently called on County Executive Chris Collins to reengage in those efforts, which was ignored;
  • In July 2011, as a candidate for Erie County Executive, Poloncarz released a policy paper analyzing the County’s Medicaid program and put forth a plan to reduce the burden on Erie County taxpayers that included the creation of an “Erie County Medicaid Inspector General” to work alongside partners in state government to root out waste, fraud and abuse; and,
  • On January 3, 2012, his first day in office as County Executive, Poloncarz issued Executive Order #002—Medicaid Fraud and Abuse Task Force, which required the Commissioner of the Department of Social Services, in conjunction with the County Attorney and Comptroller’s Offices, to recommend the methods and procedures to create a Medicaid Anti-Fraud Task Force.

Eleven (“11”) other counties and New York City have participated in earlier versions of OMIG’s Demonstration Project and some have experienced success in not only deterring but identifying and recovering illegally obtained Medicaid payments to vendors.  Recent successes include Monroe County identifying nearly $12 million in Medicaid claim overpayments made to local providers, with OMIG taking action to successfully recover more than $4 million.   Monroe County’s local share of these collections amounted to $515,745.  New York City was also recently presented with $278,642, which represented their local share of more than $10 million in Medicaid funds recovered over the past three years.

Medicaid, which was enacted in 1965 as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s ‘Great Society,’ is a means-tested entitlement program that finances the delivery of primary and acute medical services, as well as long-term care to more than 68 million Americans.  While optional, all states and the District of Columbia currently participate in the program.