Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Ex-Sacramento County social worker extradited in IHSS fraud case

"Exploiting her position of trust as social worker, she created false IHSS records and then, with the help of 12 other real people, she was able to steal program money as pay for thousands of hours of services that were not actually provided," West said.
* * *
Yes, there's fraud in government programs to help the disabled, but it's not the disabled who commit the crimes, and there's no reason for the disabled to suffer for crimes they didn't commit, by having programs shut down because OTHER people were committing fraud.
In the case of IHSS, the actual caregiver is paid little more than minimum wage and the government tells them the maximum number of hours they're allowed to work.  If the caregiver writes down her maximum 4 hours on a day when she only worked 3, the "fraud" amounts to ten bucks or less.  Big fat deal.  The government wastes more than that every minute. 
(And, frankly, I know some of those paid caregivers, dedicated parents who gave up their good-paying jobs to stay home to take care of their own child rather than institutionalizing the child; they work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, never a vacation, and get paid for working 3 or 4 hours a day.  If one of them should happen to bill for an extra hour now and then, that's just making up for the many hours they work without being paid.  Personally, I'm inclined to write it off to bad record-keeping.  They're not accountants, they're mommies.  Filling out a time sheet is probably the last thing on their mind in the course of a busy day, and they may try to reconstruct their hours for the pay period the day the time card is due ... just like many of us other working folk.) 
But here, a social worker who knew how the system works committed $300,000 of fraud.  The patients are not to blame, because there were no actual patients.
Similarly, in Medicare/Medicaid, it's not the patients who commit the fraud.  They're not the ones who type up the bills and send them to the government.  It's the DOCTORS and other people inside the system.  Yet the hysterical rantings of the media always seem to point the finger at the patients, who have no way of committing the fraud because they are not involved in the financial end of the process.
Again, sure, a few may get prescriptions for pills they don't really need and sell them for $5 each on a street corner to supplement their meager Disability checks (my late best friend got only $300 a month from SSDI, and another friend, an RN, gets only $648 -- just try to live on that!), but the big fraud is committed by doctors and purveyors of things like wheelchairs and scooters.  Nonetheless, the little guy gets the blame.
I have no problem with investigating to find fraud and waste in government programs that help the poor and disabled -- it's my tax money, too -- but let's focus those investigations where they belong, at the top of the food chain, not the bottom, trying to throw helpless people in the street and their caregivers in jail over a few dollars, when the ones with the six- and seven- and eight-figure fraud and overcharges get off scot-free.
Remember, the State of Connecticut launched a million-dollar investigation to root out all those slackers who are collecting Disability when they could work, and found a whopping six people in the entire state.  Assuming an average Disability benefit of $1000/month, it'll take 14 years to recoup the cost of the investigation.  Or they could've investigated one fraudulent medical supply company and made back the money in a couple months.  But doctors and medical suppliers make campaign contributions; poor disabled people and their equally poor caregivers do not.  So the investigations tend to focus on those who are NOT friends of the powerful.

No comments: