MEDI-CAL FRAUD: California COuld Be a Model for Battling Corruption
California's history of "close cooperation between state and federal law enforcement officials in investigating and prosecuting" Medi-Cal fraud could serve as an example for other states, federal officials said yesterday. At a House Commerce oversight and investigations subcommittee hearing, General Accounting Office Associate Director Leslie Aronovitz praised California for its prosecution of more than 100 providers, wholesalers and suppliers in the past year. Speaking to a panel of witnesses, which included California Controller Kathleen Connell and J. Alan Cates, head of the state DHS' Medi-Cal fraud bureau, Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) added, "You can teach us something. It sounds like you had a bad problem and cleaned it up a lot." Ruben Assatourian, a medical products company president from Glendale, testified that the system's "corruption has made life a living miserable hell for distributors such as me and providers who are trying to conduct legitimate business and grow." Until the FBI got involved with its "sledgehammer and an industrial-grade vacuum cleaner," the Medi-Cal system was a "broken-down ATM ... spitting out cash uncontrollably," Assatourian said. Although California loses about $1 billion each year to Medi-Cal fraud, Aronovitz noted that the state is "among the most aggressive in the nation in its efforts to root out corruption" (Rosenblatt, Los Angeles Times, 7/19).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.