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(TRENTON) – Legislation Assemblymen Herb Conaway, Wayne DeAngelo, Nelson Albano and Matt Milam sponsored to enhance the state’s ability to recoup money fraudulently taken from the state’s Medicaid system has received final legislative approval.

The bill (A-3731) would amend the state’s False Claims Act to bring it in line with the federal Deficit Reduction Act, which would provide for enhanced recovery efforts in Medicaid fraud cases.

“State law needs to be as tough as possible in chasing down Medicaid fraud,” said Conaway (D-Burlington/Camden). “People who perpetrate Medicaid fraud are stealing from taxpayers, and the state should have every ability to get that money back.

“We need to not only be able to quickly take action against Medicaid fraud but also ensure that people making fraudulent claims pay back what they stole,” said DeAngelo (D-Mercer).

A review by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Inspector General and the Department of Justice found the state False Claims Act deficient in rewarding and facilitating qui tam actions – cases where residents with knowledge of a fraud bring a suit against the alleged wrongdoer in the government’s name. The bill would correct those deficiencies by putting state statute in compliance with federal law.

“Law-abiding residents who see others cheating the system should know they will have the state on their side when they blow the whistle,” said Albano (D-Cumberland/Atlantic/Cape May). “Empowering residents to fight fraud will not only help law enforcement track down Medicaid thieves, but allow the state to more quickly and efficiently get taxpayer money back.”

“Every dollar taken fraudulently from Medicaid is a dollar that won’t be able to help disadvantaged families get the medical care they deserve or go to repaying hospitals for treating the uninsured,” said Milam (D-Cumberland/Atlantic/Cape May). “Especially in these economic times, the state must be able to have every ability to get back money people illegally stuff in their own pockets.”

In 2007, the state Department of Law and Public Safety’s Medicaid Fraud Unit indicted or convicted 22 defendants and collected $4.2 million in restitution and fines.
The bill passed the Assembly 76-0 on Jan. 7 and was approved 36-0 Monday by the Senate.

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