Not wishing to be overshadowed by the aggressive anti-fraud tactics in Stanislaus County (California’s War on the Elderly and Disabled: A Dispatch from the Front Lines) Sacramento County District Attorney Jan Scully is publicizing the exploits of her own “fraud squad” in the struggle against what she claims is “massive fraud” in the In Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program.
In a breathless announcement to the County Board of Supervisors, Ms. Scully’s team proclaimed that her anti-fraud Task Force has been responsible for criminal cases against 60 defendants for about $780,000 in fraud in the past year. “There are many opportunities for fraud in this program,” declared Deputy D.A. Laura West. She claimed that the Task Force, as well as other factors, has helped save the county about $1.1 million in local funds.
Supervisor Roger Dickinson, for one, was not impressed.
According to the Sacramento Bee, Dickinson “pointed out that the fraud amount is miniscule when compared to the overall size of the program.”
The money allegedly saved represents less than one percent of the total cost of the program, he said.
Noting that 60 criminal defendants represent less than half a percent of all care providers, Dickinson said that the figures reported by the DA’s Office “would seem to refute the argument made by those who assail IHSS-often those on the right seeking to slash the program-which is that as much as 25 percent of the costs of the program go to fraud.
“These numbers don’t even start to scratch the surface of that figure,” he said.
You may recall that DA Scully was one of the cheerleaders at Gov. Schwarzenegger’s 2009 news conference when he claimed that the IHSS fraud rate was as much as 25 percent. (She must be doing cartwheels over Meg Whitman’s pronouncement of a 70 percent fraud rate in the program.)
Only problem is that no one has ever found conclusive proof of widespread fraud in IHSS. Even Schwarzenegger’s own Quality Assurance Task Force report in 2007 found a fraud rate of only about two percent in the program.
But this hasn’t stopped the anti-fraud crusade. Attacking the low-income elderly and disabled IHSS recipients and those who care for them as fraud criminals scores political points for right-wing ideologues and helps pad the budgets of county DA’s. So why should they let the facts get in the way.
Any fraud in IHSS is wrong and should be investigated. But perhaps the Sacramento Supervisors should stop and compare the amount of “savings” ($1.1 million at most) with the costs of setting up and running Scully’s “fraud squad.”
Steve Mehlman is Communications Director for the 65,000-member UDW Homecare Providers Union/AFSCME Local 3930.