DANVILLE, Ind. - As part of an ongoing effort to deter abuse and neglect of the elderly, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller has opened a new branch office of his Medicaid Fraud Control Unit in Danville to investigate complaints in the Hendricks County vicinity.
"One of the most important roles of the Attorney General's Office is to objectively screen complaints of abuse and neglect of senior citizens who are Medicaid patients and develop both civil and criminal cases," Zoeller said. "Elderly Hoosiers who are receiving Medicaid benefits are among the most vulnerable of our neighbors, and they deserve our most diligent efforts to protect them from neglect and abuse."
The Attorney General's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) investigates patient abuse and neglect and operates out of a headquarters in Castleton and nine satellite offices around Indiana. The MFCU recently opened a 10th satellite office inside the Danville Police Department Building at 49 N. Wayne Street in Danville. The town government had a vacant office space available which town officials made available rent-free to state government.
"I am extremely grateful to our partners in public service and law enforcement here in Danville who understand the cost-conscious times that state government is in," Zoeller added. "Their hospitality in allocating resources will help the state maximize our efforts fighting patient abuse here in Hendricks County and elsewhere."
Complaints of possible abuse or neglect of patients in nursing facilities are investigated by Indiana State Department of Health survey teams who screen for possible licensing violations. Separately, the Attorney General's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit also reviews the same complaints from a medical perspective to evaluate whether an individual committed a criminal violation. The MFCU makes charging recommendations, though decisions on filing criminal charges ultimately are up to county prosecutors or the U.S. Attorney.
"When a frail elderly patient dies in a nursing home, the family may be suspicious; but anyone who is not an expert understandably might conclude that the death was due to natural causes. We make no such presumption," said Deputy Attorney General Allen K. Pope, director of the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit. "Our investigations involve thorough and painstaking analysis of records to ascertain whether any criminal conduct occurred and to hold any responsible individuals to account."
At its other branch offices across Indiana, the MFCU also investigates fraudulent billings submitted by health care providers to Medicaid, the federal and state health care program for low-income individuals. If fraudulent billings are discovered, then the Attorney General can sue to recover funds from providers and reimburse Medicaid. Recently, the MFCU worked closely with the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Northern District of Indiana to obtain a criminal conviction against Wynell Gray on two counts of health care fraud. Gray was indicted on federal charges of billing the Medicaid program more than $400,000 for ambulance transportation services that were not provided, and a jury found her guilty April 21.
To crack down on tax-dollar-wasting fraud in the health care and pharmaceutical industries, Zoeller is notifying Hoosiers who work in those fields that they can file whistleblower lawsuits if they know of fraud -- and can collect a portion of any damages awarded to reimburse public funds wrongly paid out. In coming weeks, Zoeller will launch a new public-awareness campaign to reach health care and pharmaceutical workers to advise them of their rights as whistleblowers under the False Claims Act. In those cases - called "qui tam" cases in legal parlance - the multimillion-dollar settlement payments by companies to reimburse public funds lost to fraud meant that whistleblowers also received millions of dollars individually.
In officially opening the new MFCU office today, Zoeller thanked the town government of Danville, particularly Police Chief Keith Gill, for making available an office space in the Police Department for the MFCU to use. Zoeller also thanked Town Manager Gary Eakin, members of the Danville Town Council, Clerk-Treasurer Amy Roberts and other officials for their efforts to provide a workspace to MFCU.
"While the vast majority of nursing home caregivers practice responsibly, the knowledge that the State of Indiana is looking over caregivers' shoulders will serve to protect patients who depend upon them," Zoeller said.
Anyone who wishes to report patient abuse or neglect can report it by calling the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit toll free at 1-800-382-1039.
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