Medicaid Drivers Take D.C. for Ride; No Background Checks on Companies That Got $22.3 Million in '05
Byline: Jim McElhatton, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Kayode Y. Abrams had nearly a dozen traffic citations and a criminal record when the District's Medicaid agency hired his company to drive the city's neediest to medical appointments.
And when Abrams' company wasn't transporting Medicaid patients, the 33-year-old businessman had a side job: He was an organizer in a Northern Virginia crack-cocaine ring, according to court records.
Despite his criminal record, Abrams won certification as a Medicaid provider in the District.
It was no fluke.
Gaining entry into the lucrative but little-known industry has required little more than a driver's license, an inspected van, auto insurance and valid rates on file.
Neither the D.C. Department of Health, which oversees Medicaid, nor the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Commission, which licenses motor carriers, has conducted background checks of company officials in recent years.
City officials recently have pledged to reform the troubled program, but the lack of oversight raises questions about the overall management of the city's more than $1 billion Medicaid program.
Last year, the District spent $22.3 million for nonemergency transportation of Medicaid patients - slightly more than what the city paid for patients to see individual doctors, according to city records.
"There's more paid for transportation trips than doctor visits, and anybody can tell you that smells," says D.C. Council member David A. Catania, at-large independent.
Kayo LLC, founded in 2002, was one of about 200 Medicaid transporters operating in the city before it collapsed in the wake of Abrams' arrest and 10-year prison sentence last year.
Even with its owner in prison, Kayo LLC remains on a directory of Medicaid providers posted by the Department of Health on its Web site.
Medicaid, which provides health insurance for the poor, is funded by the federal government and the states, which also manage their programs.
A review of court records and other official documents of transportation companies on the D.C. Medicaid provider directory has found company officials with criminal histories and others with numerous driving violations.
The District's management of nonemergency transportation for Medicaid patients has come under increasing scrutiny in the past year.
Both the D.C. Office of the Inspector General and the D.C. Council Committee on Health have investigated the program. Federal authorities this year indicted the owner of one company, the Voice of Social Concern, while a criminal investigation into another continues.
Last month, the Office of the Inspector General for the federal Health and Human Services Department filed a search warrant affidavit on three vans operated by Mash Transportation Inc. of Hyattsville.
The Washington Times has obtained a copy of the search-warrant affidavit.
According to the document, Mash Transportation has filed dozens of Medicaid claims for transporting patients who were dead.
In one case, a Medicaid recipient died Jan. 6, 2000, but Mash continued to bill the District's Medicaid program dozens of times for rides for months after the date of death, according to the affidavit.
The FBI and the inspector general also have been investigating whether Mash fraudulently reported that recipients were confined to wheelchairs, which would have allowed the company to be paid at a higher reimbursement rate, according to the affidavit.
Authorities also noted that Mash received $410,784 for transporting D.C. patients in 2003, when the average total receipts for such services was about $60,000.
Since 2001, the company has received more than $1.8 million from the District, federal documents show.
Federal authorities declined to comment on the investigation. …