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LIBERTY, NY — There are more than 10,000 individuals in Sullivan County with some form of medical coverage through the Medicaid program. Medicaid has built-in medical transportation services that are readily available to pick up clients at their homes and transport them to and from legitimate medical appointments. Many local taxi companies have contracts with the New York State Medicaid program to perform this medical transportation function.
During the past nine months, however, the Sullivan County Welfare Fraud Task Force has investigated hundreds of medical transportation services that were provided to Medicaid clients but were not for medical purposes. Many arrests have resulted from these investigations.
“I believe that Medicaid transportation is an important component to assure access to healthcare,” said health and family services commissioner Joe Todora. “Thus, this is not just a misuse and abuse of the Medicaid program; it is a fraudulent activity, and even one medical transportation trip taken for a non-medical reason can result in a felony charge and arrest of the client.”
Medical trips have been used to do grocery shopping, visit friends, attend non-medical meetings, go to liquor stores and even apply for other services at the department of family services.
“Abuse of the Medicaid transportation system will not be tolerated,” said District Attorney James Farrell. “Taxpayers should not be funding trips to the store or trips to visit friends under the guise of a doctor’s visit. It is fraud, plain and simple, and it will be treated as such. Medicaid recipients and vendors are on notice that such abuses will be investigated by our fraud team and the offenders prosecuted.”
Research by the task force gives credence to the supposition that this abuse of medical transportation may be widespread. A Medicaid transportation fraud case in excess of $1 million was turned over to the New York State Attorney General’s Office by the task force several months ago for state prosecution. There is also strong indication that the nature and extent of this type of abuse extends beyond Sullivan County.
“Our detectives have interviewed suspects who have admitted to taking taxpayer-funded Medicaid transportation from Sullivan County to Newburgh to buy drugs,” noted Sheriff Michael Schiff. “We are cracking down on this type of fraud and abuse and encourage anyone with information to call our 24-hour fraud hotline: 845/513-2392.”