Beef up investigation of Medicaid fraud
Story by Dan Hust
MONTICELLO A slew of issues came before legislators during Thursday’s committee meetings.
Legislator Cindy Gieger and Health and Family Services Commissioner Randy Parker announced an intent to beef up the county’s Medicaid fraud unit.
“The goal is to formally form a county fraud investigation team,” Gieger explained.
In addition to existing county staff and law enforcement, the team would feature a full-time chief investigator, for which $60,000-$70,000 plus benefits would be allocated in the 2013 county budget.
The investigator, said Parker, “would help publicize the info that Sullivan County is not an easy target.” He added that the position “is going to more than pay for itself.”
“I think you’ll see a significant savings,” agreed Deputy Commissioner David Sager.
“This person will be the hub,” explained Legislature Chairman Scott Samuelson, noting that local police agencies are already on board.
A county fraud hotline and web-based complaint form are also in the works. In the meantime, those with fraud concerns can report them to the state via 1-877-87-FRAUD.
Health Review Panel open to public
The offerings of the Division of Health and Family Services which comprise the bulk of the county budget are being reviewed by a previously-announced panel that includes James Galligan, Dyan Campbell, Robert Hoose, Donna Schick and Russell Reeves.
Initially called the Social Services District Review Panel, it was renamed on Thursday to the Health and Family Services Review Panel and will meet into the new year to locate cost-efficiencies.
Gieger said the meetings are open to the public, with the next one scheduled for this Wednesday, November 14 at noon at the Government Center in Monticello.
Sales tax up
County Treasurer Ira Cohen told legislators the county’s sales tax revenue is almost $1 million higher this year than this time last year.
“We’re up $989,000,” he related.
“Do you think our sales tax is going to be up from this past week?” questioned Legislator Gene Benson, referring to the rooms and goods purchased as a result of Hurricane Sandy.
“Yes,” replied Cohen.
“I contributed to the sales tax this week,” County Manager David Fanslau drily noted, as he and his family had to spend several nights at a local hotel due to the storm.
The room tax revenue is also up year over year, by about $25,500, though the mortgage tax income continues to run nearly $2,000 less for 2012 than this time in 2011.
Recovering from Sandy
Speaking of Sandy, Fanslau gave a brief report on Thursday the day the county’s Emergency Operations Center ceased 24/7 activity.
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) personnel had already been in the county the Friday after Sandy’s arrival and indicated Sullivan County met the eligibility criteria for disaster assistance. (Individual Assistance was granted to the county yesterday.)
Deputy Public Works Commissioner Ed McAndrew said county staff had prepared for the storm but still had a lot of work to do after Sandy passed.
“One of our guys had to come in on an ATV, cutting his way into Livingston Manor,” McAndrew related, noting crews were clearing trees from roads dawn till dusk.
“We did have close to 200 roads closed during the storm,” Fanslau explained, speaking of town, county and state routes.
“We are still looking at probably another 3-4 weeks of clearing roads,” added McAndrew though all roads are open.
“You guys really have worked very hard,” thanked Legislator Kitty Vetter.
Sullivan County Board of Elections commissioners Rodney Gaebel and Ann Prusinski told legislators Thursday that only seven of the federally-required Spanish ballots were used four in Woodridge alone.
“There were no interpretive issues,” Gaebel remarked, adding that 300 Spanish ballots were printed at 60 cents apiece.
But at least one polling site ran out of affidavit ballots (due to Sandy-displaced voters), requiring the use of three Spanish ballots for English-speaking voters.
“We did see an extremely high voter turnout,” said Prusinski, pegging it around 65 percent of the county’s eligible voters.