Addressing Medicaid

Tuesday, August 8, 2006

By Matt Blunt

This year's state budget includes more tax dollars for Medicaid than any other in our state's history. We are working to build an improved system that provides higher-quality care and is a sustainable use of your hard-earned tax dollars.

Before we enacted necessary changes, program misuse and abuse was allowed to strip resources from services intended for our most vulnerable citizens.

One example was the Medical Assistance for Workers with Disabilities program. It was initially projected to cost $6.3 million a year to provide participants access to reduced-cost medical assistance while they were working. Instead, fraud and abuse drove program costs to $251 million dollars a year, 42 times what was originally planned.

Now we have an opportunity to create a new transitional benefit with similar goals as MAWD that eliminates barriers for those who hold jobs and rewards those who made a legitimate effort to work without opening a floodgate of abuse.

I have called on the General Assembly to pass strong legislation targeted specifically at Medicaid fraud to build on the $139.7 million in savings we have already uncovered and corrected by aggressively working to target fraud, waste and abuse in the broken system. The legislation's opponents claim the bill, which I support, is too harsh. How can you be too harsh on those who knowingly commit fraud, steal from taxpayers and rob our most vulnerable from assistance they truly need?

One phony argument made by opponents is that the bill will go after well-intentioned doctors who make a mistake. This is not true. The legislation is clear that we are going after those who knowingly commit fraud, not those who make innocent mistakes on paperwork. Medicaid fraud is stealing.

It is important to consider strong fraud legislation side by side with any new program to ensure mistakes of the past are not repeated.

State law authorizes me to call the legislature back to the Capitol for a special session to consider important state issues. A special session costs taxpayers money, but I would be willing to call a special session to enact a new transitional work program and tough Medicaid fraud provisions into law.

We have implemented important changes to the state's neglected social welfare system that have kept the safety net in place for those truly in need of assistance. Now, we must build a system that respects your hard-earned tax dollars and is sustainable for the long-term.

Matt Blunt is the governor of Missouri.

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