A bipartisan group of 38 attorneys general have asked the Trump administration to ease federal restrictions that limit states’ ability to investigate and prosecute the abuse and neglect of Medicaid beneficiaries.
Led by attorneys general Derek Schmidt, R-Kansas, and George Jepsen, D-Connecticut, the attorneys general today sent a letter to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price requesting that specific federal regulations limiting the use of state-based Medicaid Fraud Control Units (MFCU) be eased. Jepsen is the current president of the National Association of Attorneys General, and Schmidt is expected to assume that position this summer.
“[T]he current strict federal limitations on states’ ability to use MFCU assets to investigate and prosecute abuse and neglect are outdated, arbitrarily restrict our ability to protect Medicaid beneficiaries from abuse and neglect as Congress intended, and should be replaced or eliminated,” the attorneys general wrote. “We respectfully request you take swift action to eliminate federal regulations that needlessly narrow our use of these valuable assets.”
As a condition of participating in the federal Medicaid program, almost every state is required to maintain a MFCU. The federal government pays most of the cost of operating the unit, so federal regulations set limits on what the unit may do. In Kansas and in most other states, that unit is housed in the attorney general’s office. Its mission is to investigate and prosecute cases of Medicaid provider fraud and also cases of abuse and neglect. But under current federal regulations, a MFCU may investigate and prosecute patient abuse and neglect only if it occurs in a health care facility or, in some circumstances, in a board and care facility. That means other cases of abuse and neglect of Medicaid patients – such as in a home health care setting – fall outside the unit’s authority.
The attorneys general requested two specific federal regulations be modified or eliminated. First, they asked that states be allowed to use MFCUs to investigate and prosecute the abuse and neglect of Medicaid beneficiaries wherever it may occur, including in non-institutional settings. Second, they asked that MFCU staff be allowed to screen complaints or reports alleging potential abuse or neglect from any source and without restriction to complaints alleging abuse or neglect in health care facilities.
“This (current) regulation effectively places blinders on the MFCUs in their ability to search for and identify cases of possible abuse and neglect of beneficiaries,” the attorneys general wrote.
Schmidt said his leadership in this national effort to increase the authority of MFCUs is part of a broader focus in the Kansas attorney general’s office on strengthening the ability to handle cases of elder abuse as well as the abuse and neglect of other vulnerable adults.
A copy of the letter is available at bit.ly/2q2Tcq8.