NJ assemblyman wants oversight of health care misspending

April 2, 2008 11:33:17 AM PDT

The Legislature approved a Medicaid inspector general in early 2007, but Gov. Jon S. Corzine hasn't filled the job more than a year later.

Now, two recent state audits found numerous examples of waste in Medicaid and another health program for the poor.

"Obviously, there needs to be immediate action on this in order to avert future waste and embarrassment," said Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts Jr., D-Camden.

Corzine signed the position into law in March 2007, but hasn't appointed anyone.

Corzine spokeswoman Lilo Stainton said candidates are being interviewed.

Under the law, the Medicaid inspector general is to be appointed by the governor, with Senate approval, for a five-year term.

The inspector general's main role would be to root out suspected waste and fraud in the state's $9 billion annual Medicaid program that's jointly funded by the state and the federal government.

Medicaid pays for health care for the poor, elderly, disabled and low-income families with children.

It costs the state about $3.5 billion per year, or 11 percent of the state budget, and is New Jersey's second-largest single spending item, behind only public school aid.

It serves about 1 million people.

But two recent reviews by the state auditor found problems with Medicaid and a similar program for working poor parents and their children, NJ FamilyCare:

- Enrollees earning as much as $295,000 per year.

- No attempts to collect $4.6 million owed to the state by 16,300 people who were once enrolled.

- Paying $2.1 million from July 2005 to December 2007 for medical equipment that should have been paid for by nursing facilities.

- Improperly calculating Medicaid reimbursements that, for instance, led the state to pay $8,181 for a wheelchair that should have cost $5,705.

"I trust the administration will act right away on this, re-examine the FamilyCare application process and consider prosecuting the wrongdoers," Roberts said.