New O'Keefe Sting Exposes Medicaid Corruption - Commentary

Conservative activist James O’Keefe traded in his pimp hat for a Russian accent during his latest undercover sting operation, in which he pretends to be an affluent European drug dealer attempting to obtain Medicaid benefits from an Ohio government office. Once again, the con apparently worked. Government employees are shown on video assisting O’Keefe in applying for medical assistance, after he tells them that he sells drugs, pimps out his underage sister and recently purchased an $800,000 car:

In response, Ohio employees tasked with disbursing federal Medicaid dollars are shown coaching the men through the process of applying for benefits. “If it’s not something registered here, maybe I just wouldn’t mention it,” a Franklin County Medicaid officer named Traci Daniels tells the men, when asked whether they should mention owning a vehicle that retails for nearly $1 million, as they apply for government aid designed to help poor people. “Not that I can say that. You didn’t hear that from me. But, that would right there, that would throw him off. He would be immediately not qualified.” Daniels also tells the men to describe their occupation as babysitting, though she apparently believes they are drug dealers.

The “babysitting” comment is probably the most egregious part of the video. When one of the activists informs a Medicaid worker that he sells “Bob Marley pharmaceuticals,” the chuckling employee replies, “I know what you’re saying, and I don’t want to hear what you’re saying. So just, yeah – babysitting.” But it’s not the only devastating part of the tape — at another point in the video, the same Medicaid worker appears to encourage the activists to go to Planned Parenthood if their underage, prostitute sister needs an abortion. This isn’t the first time the Medicaid program has been caught up in a drug-dealing-related scandal. Last December, New York investigators charged dozens of Medicaid recipients with selling medication to drug dealers:

[Ethel] Johnson is among 33 people charged so far in a large-scale investigation that has opened a window into an emerging class of suppliers in the illicit drug trade: medical patients, including many who rely on the publicly funded Medicaid program to pay for their appointments and prescriptions. She has pleaded not guilty. For the first time, the Buffalo investigators devoted the kinds of resources normally aimed at street drugs like heroin or crack — wiretaps, buys, surveillance and cross-agency cooperation to trace the drugs from pharmacy to street. Even they were taken aback by the burgeoning market for the kinds of pills found in medicine cabinets in typical American homes.

A Government Accountability Office report from 2009 examined Medicaid pharmaceutical fraud in California, Illinois, New York, North Carolina, and Texas, and found that it cost taxpayers $63 million in those four states alone. If O’Keefe’s sting video provokes enough public outrage over Medicaid abuse, then it could help save taxpayers a significant chunk of change. Of course, O’Keefe has been accused of questionable editing tactics in some of his previous videos, and if any similar complaints arise over this tape, then that could end up overshadowing the real issue here.

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