Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Miller Signs Medicaid Fraud Bill

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Miller Signs Medicaid Fraud Bill

Article excerpt

ATLANTA -- Gov. Zell Miller signed into law yesterday

legislation to help the state retrieve some of the $111 million

to $370 million stolen from the government each year by Medicaid

thieves in Georgia.

State officials say they hope to use the law to seize the

assets of people suspected of Medicaid fraud before they can

hide or spend the money.

"Medicaid fraud is a major problem, not just here in Georgia,

but throughout the United States," Miller said. "Georgia

taxpayers are being ripped off. And these criminals are stealing

staggering amounts of taxpayer money."

Government estimates are that fraud accounts for 3 percent to

10 percent of the nation's health care expenditures.

In Georgia, 3 percent to 10 percent of the state's Medicaid

budget would be $111 million to $370 million.

Medicaid is the state-federal program that pays the health care

bills for Georgia's poor and disabled.

Miller created a State Health Care Fraud Control Unit about two

years ago, and officials have caught more than 40 Medicaid

thieves, recovering $17.5 million in state and federal money.

But the governor said that too often, by the time a Medicaid

fraud case goes to state superior court for trial, prosecutors

are unable to recover assets.

"To get that money back, authorities must pursue civil actions

to recover those assets, and by then, the criminals have either

spent it all or hidden what they stole," the governor said.

Under the new law, the state will be able to seize assets

before a suspect is tried on fraud charges.

The legislation initially was stalled by trial lawyers and

Republicans in the General Assembly because they feared it would

let the state take the assets of innocent business people.

Similar complaints have been made about federal drug seizure

laws that allow the government to take the cars, homes,

businesses and cash of people suspected of dealing or

transporting drugs.

"The problem a lot of people have is the state is coming in

and, because they think you're doing something wrong, seizing

all your assets," said Rep. …

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