Defrauding government programs such as Medicaid costs taxpayers millions upon millions of dollars every year; taking money away from those who actually need the help. Today, the Foundation for Government Accountability released their report on welfare fraud and how state’s can stop it.  Unfortunately it includes a sad story about what this means for enrollees in the Land of Lincoln.

In a state like Illinois, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that dead people vote, but one review found that nearly 3,000 dead people were getting paid $12 million in Medicaid benefits. And that $12 million is just a drop in the bucket of the massive amount of Medicaid money that the state has wasted.

Fraud and waste like those payments to the deceased have serious, real life consequences, impacting those who truly need the assistance.

Jacob Chalkey, a boy stricken with a very rare, life threatening seizure disorder, was dependent upon Illinois’ Medicaid program for the one and only drug that can properly treat his condition. The high cost of Medicaid fraud really hit home when it led to Illinois cutting off payment for Jacob’s critical medication.

Jacob’s mother, Christine, says that fraud in these programs saddens her and takes away assistance, “for the most vulnerable and neediest of all.”

Illinois State Representative Patti Bellock, who has been a leading advocate for Medicaid reforms in her state said that the cost of fraud to the state takes away “the services, the quality and the access to health care for that most fragile population.”

“The states have a responsibility to ensure taxpayer dollars are being properly managed, especially when very limited resources are being diverted away from the truly needy and into the hands of fraudsters and criminals,” said FGA CEO Tarren Bragdon.

Fortunately, Illinois is making real changes to help provide long-term services for the truly needy, like Jacob.

When the state first began a detailed review of its Medicaid program, they found thousands of individuals on the Medicaid rolls were ineligible. In the first year of their reform initiative, the state removed nearly 300,000 individuals from the program, which covered nearly 3 million people. In the second year, they removed an additional 400,000 enrollees. For the first time in recent history, Illinois’ Medicaid enrollment actually shrank from one year to the next.

State officials expect these reforms to save taxpayers an estimated $350 million per year in improper payments.

The Foundation for Government Accountability has a three part plan to rein in some of these abuses, which includes better initial screening of welfare recipients, checkups on those receiving benefits, and public prosecution and oversight of this who knowingly scam the system.

Bragdon noted that, “thanks to proactive reforms,” in Illinois, “the dead may still be able to vote in Chicago, but they can’t get Medicaid anymore.”

If other states follow this example, and the three point FGA plan, they too can begin to allocate more of their scarce financial resources away from scammers and criminals and toward those in Medicaid who truly need the support.

Follow Kristina and The FGA on Twitter.

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