Welcome to the Pondera FraudCast, a weekly blog where we post information on fraud trends, lessons learned from client engagements, and observations from our investigators in the field. We hope you’ll check back often to stay current with our efforts to combat fraud, waste, and abuse in large government programs.
Regular readers of our blog know that Pondera has strong feelings about the need to protect the elderly from abuses while they are being cared for in facilities and their homes. In fact, in April of this year we wrote about the devastating abuses in nursing homes that continue to plague the elderly. Now, a number of states are stepping up the pressure on the federal government to allow them to more effectively fight the problem.
In a letter dated May 11th, 37 states’ attorney generals requested that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services eliminate several restrictions on the use of Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) funds. In the letter, they point out that 10% of elderly Medicaid recipients who receive care in their homes will be abused. They also cite a report that indicates that only 1 in 24 incidents are ever reported.
Specifically, the states asked for the ability to use the funds to “investigate and prosecute abuse and neglect of Medicaid beneficiaries in non-institutional settings” and to “screen complaints or reports alleging potential abuse or neglect”. In effect, this would allow the states to close “loopholes” in the use of MFCU funds that were previously only available to investigate abuses in facilities. And they point out that Medicaid currently covers over 6.4 million people over the age of 65.
At Pondera, we are pleased to see this increased attention by the MFCU. In addition to physical abuse, we also see other types of in-home abuses including identity theft (often strong-armed) that leads to theft from other government programs. We applaud the states’ continuing efforts to address this heinous problem and hope their progress is dramatic and expedient.
As a resident of California, I took personal interest in a recent bill introduced to the legislature that would create a drugged driving task force and the use of oral swabs to help identify drivers under the influence of drugs. Californians, after all, approved the use of recreational marijuana in last November’s elections.
This bill follows a recent study showing that drugged driving deaths have now passed drunk driving deaths, with a whopping 43% of fatalities in 2015 showing the use of a legal or illegal drug. This all makes me wonder just how lawmakers, law enforcement, and the courts are going to handle field sobriety tests in the future.
After all, the cheek swab test used to test for cannabis cannot test for alcohol and many other drugs. And we’ve written on this blog many times about the dangers of and rise in the use of opioids. With all these “choices”, it appears that officers may need to administer multiple tests (alcohol, opioids, cannabis, etc.) to identify potential influences affecting a driver.
While it would be nice to think that drivers would act responsibly, history shows us this is not the case. In Colorado, for example, CDOT conducted a study that revealed that 55% of marijuana users believed it was safe to drive under the influence of marijuana. And the number of fatalities with active THC has increased 250% from 2013 – 2015. While I know that this doesn’t necessarily prove causation, to me at least, it certainly provides reasons for concern.
A recent Cambridge University study revealed what many of us already know: each time we “like” a Facebook post, we are revealing something about ourselves. The results of the study were pretty jarring though as researchers found that Facebook “knows” their customers quite well with a just a small number of likes:
10 likes: as well as a colleague
70 likes: as well as a close friend
150 likes: as well as your parents
300 likes: as well as your spouse
This data can be used to predict gender, sexual orientation, political affiliations, and other important personal details. In fact, Facebook recently came under considerable criticism for research designed to identify psychological states of teenagers that could potentially be used for targeted advertising.
Analyzing social media data certainly presents opportunities for good, such as predicting and tracking influenza outbreaks. In many ways, it offers the digital version of predicting future behaviors, replacing anecdotal methods such as that of a friend of mine who claimed he could predict future prison riots by analyzing canteen purchases (inmates would stock up on supplies anticipating a future lockdown).
Regardless of how you feel about social media, it’s important to know that each time you press the enter key, you are revealing a little bit more about yourself – even to people you will never meet. This may not be a bad thing… but it is a thing.