MEDI-CAL: Budget Deal Resurrects Anti-Fraud Program Targeted At Immigrants
"[D]uring tough budget negotiations over benefits to immigrants," Gov. Pete Wilson was successful last week in reinstating funding in the state budget for the Department of Health Services' Medi-Cal anti-fraud program, despite its reputation for immigrant harassment. The San Jose Mercury News reports that revival of the Medi-Cal anti-fraud program is the "toughest budget-talks pill for advocacy groups to swallow." Earlier this month, the California Primary Care Association said the DHS illegally provided Immigration and Naturalization Services with information about immigrants' legal use of Medi-Cal services ( see CHL 8/3). In addition, the Mercury News reports that the INS used the information to pressure "legal U.S. residents -- even citizens -- to pay back Medi-Cal benefits they were legally entitled to receive, or risk having their relatives' visa applications rejected."
Intimidation Issue Settled
The anti-fraud program was established in 1994 to prevent foreigners from taking advantage of Medi-Cal services, the Mercury News reports. "Unless these laws are enforced it hurts the ability for other immigrants to come into the country," said Wilson spokesperson Sean Walsh. The DHS no longer accepts Medi-Cal reimbursements from individuals who lawfully used the program's services, say officials. In addition, "the state is close to settling a class-action lawsuit filed last year by San Diego Friends of Legal Aid aimed at halting the practice and recovering more than $3 million paid by former Medi-Cal recipients over the past two years." Last week's budget deal provides for a DHS hotline to report "alleged abuse by department investigators," the Mercury News reports (McLaughlin, 8/7).