Nebraska auditor accuses state HHS of fiduciary bungling

Nebraska's official auditor has called for reform of that state's Department of Health and Human Services, saying it bungled its programs for aged, blind and disabled healthcare, wasting millions of dollars in the process, the Lincoln Journal-Star reported.

Nebraska has about 6,000 residents in its aged, blind and disabled program who receive cash assistance for either themselves or for medical care. The payments for both are made by the state HHS.

Approximately 36 percent of the time the state's HHS department was making unreasonably high payments or payments in violation of state regulations, according to a sample of cases examined by State Auditor Mike Foley. The report also revealed that in some instances, those not considered medically disabled received payments from the HHS; the state didn't conduct due diligence to determine whether program enrollees were inappropriately hiding assets; those living in state-run nursing homes who had no living expenses received payments; and enrollees who had died were still being paid.

Altogether, the state made about $484,000 in overpayments to medical providers in 2012. The state HHS also underreported program payments to the Social Security Administration by more than $963,000, which could affect how much funding Nebraska receives from the Medicaid program.

And an individual whom the HHS was paying to be financial guardian to more than 600 Nebraskans was allegedly embezzling money from their bank accounts, the Nebraska Watchdog reported.

"Once again the citizens of Nebraska have seen their hard-earned tax dollars squandered by the state's largest agency of government," Foley said at a recent news conference, according to the Journal-Star. "Clearly, the people who pay the bills, the taxpayers, have been disserved again."

Healthcare fraud investigations at the federal level are expected to be scaled back due to budget cuts at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of the Inspector General, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

To learn more:
- read the Journal-Star article
- check out the Nebraska Watchdog article
- here's the report (.pdf)

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