HELENA, Mont. (Legal Newsline) — Montana Attorney General Tim Fox announced May 10 that he has joined 36 other states and the District of Columbia in urging U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price to expand the Medicaid fraud authority so it can address more resident abuse and neglect cases.

“Home health care helps address a huge portion of Montanans’ health care needs.  But the current federal policy limits our Medicaid Fraud Control Unit’s ability to investigate reports of abuse and neglect that occur in the home healthcare setting,” Fox said. 

“Abuse and neglect in the home takes many forms, including physical abuse, sexual abuse, and drug diversion.  Abuse and neglect is perpetrated by family, friends, and caregivers alike.  The requested change in policy would allow our MFCU to investigate reports of the abuse and neglect of Medicaid beneficiaries as Congress intended, regardless of where they reside, whether that’s at home or in a health care facility.”

The attorneys general drafted a letter to Price recommending he allow state Medicaid Fraud Control Units (MFCU) to use federal funds to prosecute abuse in home health care settings. Additionally, they ask that Price allow MFCU federal funds be used for complaint screenings.

“Our aging population is increasing,” said Deb Fosket, MFCU director at the Montana Department of Justice, said. “Most likely that increase will result in the elderly opting to stay at home for care rather than receive institutionalized care in a nursing home or assisted living setting. That could potentially increase a target population for caregivers so inclined to abuse the trust of their patients who have given them full access to their medications and personal assets, both financial and real, among other things.”

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