Mississippi ACLU, Center for Justice really don’t want Medicaid beneficiary fraud reported on by State Auditor.
On Monday, the Mississippi State Auditor’s office released the Single Audit of federal funds that are being used by Mississippi agencies. Included in the audit was a comparison of the income that Medicaid recipients reported to the Division of Medicaid to the income those beneficiaries reported on their state income tax returns. The Auditor found that some – roughly 5% – of those recipients could be lying to obtain additional benefits.
“The use of these returns to figure out if people are lying to obtain benefits started last year in my office,” said Auditor Shad White said in the release from his office. “We now have enough data to show there are millions of dollars of potential savings if we can prevent ineligible people from getting on Medicaid. The benefits should only be going to those who deserve to be on the program.”
Now, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Mississippi and the Mississippi Center for Justice (MCJ) are openly criticizing the audit for what will likely mean more scrutiny in how funds are being spent and make the discussion surrounding Medicaid expansion more difficult.
In a Clarion Ledger article, MCJ advocacy director Beth Orlansky said that “highlighting the alleged fraud will only serve to feed the calls for even stricter Medicaid regulations and curtail efforts to expand the program in Mississippi.”
Orlansky went on to tell the Clarion Ledger that the audit “feeds the messaging that people are taking advantage of the system, and so if you expand the system more people will take advantage of it.”
Executive Director of the ACLU of Mississippi, Jarvis Dortch, a former Democratic state representative, also spoke to the Clarion Ledger. He agreed with Orlansky, asking, “What are you going to do next year when there’s always some sort of effort in the Mississippi Legislature to make it harder for folks to get public benefits?”
Orlansky said the audit report is proof the state is targeting poor people through their tax returns.
Both organizations have advocated for Medicaid expansion in Mississippi.
Thursday morning, State Auditor White did not hold back on his response to such comments from the ACLU and MCJ, saying they were “out of their ever-loving minds with their recent attack on me.”
In a Facebook post, Auditor White said he was under the impression the ACLU and MCJ were supposed to advocate for poor people, but now they are apparently in favor of millionaires getting Medicaid.
“Two years ago, the now-head of the ACLU [Dortch] asked to come to my office to discuss Medicaid. I agreed. I asked him if it was possible for a Medicaid applicant to lie about their income to get Medicaid,” White wrote. “’That’s not happening,’ he said. My audit this week proves him wrong. We know there are people living in million-dollar homes getting Medicaid. I’m still waiting on my apology letter from the ACLU.”
Auditor White continued, saying these groups accuse him of singling out Medicaid for auditing as a part of a political agenda, yet they probably didn’t know that he is required by the federal government to audit Medicaid every year.
“But, by all means, never let the facts get in the way of a good story you can tell your donors, ACLU and MCJ. You’ve got to pay your salaries somehow,” White wrote.
White justified his office’s use of tax returns to review the Medicaid program.
“Everyone knows using tax returns is useful. That’s why Medicaid officers ask for applicants’ returns every day. But, by all means, continue to suggest they’re not helpful, in face of this audit evidence,” the State Auditor wrote. “Since when did it become a crime to demand that program funds designed for the poor actually be spent on the poor? But, by all means, feel free to try to paint me as some sort of cartoonish, poor-hating thug if it helps you. I don’t care about your feelings. I answer to the taxpayers and God for what I do every day, not you.”
White concluded his comments by saying it is almost as if the ACLU does not want anyone looking for fraud in these programs.
“They should remember that if I defy the feds and don’t audit Medicaid, the feds can cut off funding. Would that be better for the poor, who you are pretending to advocate for, MCJ,” White asked, adding, “To these groups, if you thought you found someone who will roll over to your nonsense, I’m not the one. I’m your huckleberry.”