10/05/12: Bee News Guest Editorial - Fight Against Fraud Results in Savings for Taxpayers

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October 5, 2012

In this column last month I noted the formation of the Erie County Medicaid Anti-Fraud Task Force, funded entirely by New York State with no cost to local taxpayers and charged with rooting out the waste, fraud, and abuse that exist within Medicaid. Medicaid is the single largest cost to Erie County, and under Inspector General Michael Szukala the Task Force has begun its work safeguarding the taxpayers’ dollars.

I am pleased to say that another County anti-fraud effort is currently underway as well, and already showing results in identifying and eliminating inappropriate payments, in this case to child care providers and clients. Like the Medicaid Anti-Fraud Task Force, this companion effort is partially funded by New York State with no cost to local taxpayers, and has already resulted in savings for residents.

The Child Care Fraud Team, comprised of employees from the Special Investigations Division of the Erie County Department of Social Services, has already identified over $250,000 in inappropriately received child care subsidies, along with overgrants from other social services programs. The Task Force began their anti-fraud investigations in mid-April of this year, after Erie County was awarded a competitive grant for this purpose from the New York Office of Children and Family Services. One of twenty local service districts to receive grant monies, the County Department of Social Services was given $94,051 in the one-year grant to specifically identify and pursue suspected cases of child care fraud.

The Special Investigations Division immediately applied this funding to expand the parameters used in addressing fraud by implementing a multi-faceted anti-fraud initiative, tasking a three-person team with scrutinizing subsidies for both child care providers and clients in order to identify inappropriate payments. In the course of the team’s investigations, over 150 Provider Audits (reviewing income reporting and capacity checks) and 450 Closed Case reviews were conducted between mid-April  and the beginning of September.

The team worked to expand fraud indicators prior to approving applications, improve communication between program areas to identify fraudulent benefits, pursue prompt prosecution through collaboration with the District Attorney’s office, and establish review protocols  to assess eligibility for both open cases and cases recently closed.

Results have been impressive. For the period of April 19 – September 4, 2012, Child Care subsidies inappropriately received totaled $255,221.36. Additionally, overgrants in other program areas such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“SNAP”) and Temporary Assistance (“TA”) were discovered, totaling $20,488 for SNAP and $6,592 for TA. When all three areas are combined, the total amount of inappropriate payments is $282,301.36. Collection efforts will be made to recover the inappropriately received payments.

My administration will continue to aggressively fight waste, fraud, and abuse wherever they may occur in County government in order to protect taxpayers and send a message to would-be abusers, putting them on notice that they will be found and they will be prosecuted.