A press release on Thursday touted Florida’s Medicaid fraud- and abuse-fighting efforts last year, saying 437 pill mills were squashed and state taxpayers recouped nearly $50 million. What the release failed to mention was the significant decline in fraud cases and audit recoveries.
That information was contained in the 62-page report on which the press release was based, and while most reporters apparently didn’t read it, Charles Elmore of the Palm Beach Post did. His article on Friday explained that budget cuts by the legislature left 23 state fraud-fighter jobs unfilled, which in turn led to fewer cases opened and prosecuted last year and more than a 20 percent decline in warrants for arrest and in audit recoveries.
Overall, the amount of money that rolled in was up, but the Post noted that was a fluke: Most of it was tied to the settlement of a whistleblower case that repaid the state $145 million.
Florida taxpayers miss out on money in two ways when it leaves fraud investigation and prosecution jobs unfilled. Such employees bring in far more money than they cost; the overall rate of return for fraud-fighting is $6.80 for every $1 spent.
In addition, there are federal matching funds attached to money that the state recoups.
The press release was issued by the Office of Attorney Gen. Pam Bondi. The report that it announced, was jointly produced by her office and the Agency for Health Care Administration.