Pubdate: Sun, 28 Dec 2003
Source: Lexington Herald-Leader (KY)
Copyright: 2003 Lexington Herald-Leader
Author: Bill Estep, Staff Writer


The question of whether drug dealers and other criminals can be kicked
out of the Medicaid program may get fresh debate next year.

The federal Centers on Medicare & Medicaid Services is researching the
issue, said Mary Kahn, a spokeswoman for the agency.

Kahn said the agency started the informal review after a Florida grand
jury decided this month that taxpayers were losing tens of millions of
dollars a year because of fraud in the state Medicaid program.

The problems, according to news accounts, included recipients selling
their medicine on the black market, the grand jury said. It
recommended a number of measures, including denying benefits to people
caught repeatedly abusing the program.

Meanwhile, Kentucky has joined other states in drafting proposals to
Congress to give states clear, stronger authority to terminate or
restrict Medicaid benefits, said Zach Ramsey, director of the Division
of Program Integrity in Medicaid. The proposals could go to Congress
in 2004.

Republican U.S. Rep Hal Rogers, R-Somerset, said he could not comment
on that proposal because he hadn't seen it. Some parts of Rogers' 5th
District in Eastern Kentucky ranked the highest nationally per capita
in distribution of narcotics from 1998 through 2001, according to an
analysis of federal data by the Herald-Leader.

But Rogers said he supports efforts to crack down on Medicaid fraud.
He started a new program this year called UNITE to fight street-level
drug dealing in 29 Eastern and Southern Kentucky counties because of
concerns over debilitating drug abuse; it's likely the program will
catch drug dealers who are Medicaid recipients, Rogers said.

"Medicaid was created to help provide essential medical services to
low-income people and families in need, not fill the pockets of
corrupt individuals with drug money," Rogers said in a statement.
"This type of crime is among the lowest of the low because it steals
valuable resources from the government and denies benefits to people
with legitimate health problems."
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MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin