A senate review by Senator Al McAffrey

Oklahoma State Senator Al McAffrey. File photo.

April 4, 2013 - Public assistance fraud costs Oklahoma taxpayers millions of dollars each year but there is a way we can help stop this disturbing crime.

Two bills have been introduced this year and are working their way through the process that would encourage the public to report such fraud anonymously through a state hotline.

The bottom line is that the Department of Human Services doesn’t have enough employees to constantly check every Medicaid recipient and provider to ensure no fraud is taking place. There are simply too many recipients but as a community we can help by being vigilent and letting DHS know when we suspect or are aware of public assistance fraud.

SB 27 will direct the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to require the state’s 40,000 Medicaid providers to post signage explaining how to anonymously report fraudulent Medicaid activity in all locations where services are provided. Medicaid providers are the companies that provide services to Medicaid recipients such as hospitals, physical therapists, mental health counseling providers, medical device businesses, nursing homes, etc. According to the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, 95 percent of these providers participate in the program as they should but the other five percent are abusing the system.

SB 456 will require every county DHS office to post a sign in their lobby that provides information about how to anonymously report fraud involving individual recipients of Medicaid and other public assistance.

The reason these bills is so important is that they will help reemphasize the public’s right to report public assistance fraud anonymously – a right already guarantee under the federal Medicaid False Claims Act. Many citizens aren’t aware of this right and, therefore, don’t report fraud because they’re afraid of losing their job if they work for a Medicaid provider or they’re afraid of hurting some kind of relationship – as a majority of fraud reports come from close family members.

If you are aware of or suspect any kind of public assistance fraud taking place, please call (800) 784-5887 to report it. Again, you can do this anonymously.

The state wants to protect its investment and ensure that those who really need public assistance are getting it. As legislators and public citizens, it's our duty to be good stewards of tax dollars and both bills will help ensure that assistance goes to families who truly qualify and that funds aren't defrauded through overbilling or services not rendered.

In closing, I’d like to thank Classen School of Advanced Studies juniors Kina Bazrbashi and Abi Hood. These two young ladies were a tremendous help not only to myself but to the entire Senate. I hope they enjoyed their time at the State Capitol. They have very bright futures ahead of them and I want to wish them all the best.

If you have any questions or comments, I can be reached by email atmcaffrey@oksenate.govor by phone at (405) 521-5610. You can also write me: Senator Al McAffrey, State Capitol, 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd. Room 527A, Oklahoma City, OK, 73105.