The release by the Chafee Administration of a redacted report on waste and fraud in Rhode Island’s human services programs failed to provide the total taxpayer dollars discovered by Ken Block’s Simpatico software firm that were spent on illegal or other inappropriate activity; instead the report was limited to examples of impropriety and generalities of findings within the state’s Medicaid and food-stamp program.
Based on a brief analysis of related national findings and anticipated state budgets, the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity estimates that up to $185 million dollars may be currently wasted in the Ocean State. With planned Medicaid expansion, this total could approach a whopping $221 million in future years, almost three times the amount of the 38-Studios debacle … every year.
The biggest portion of the fraud likely comes from Medicaid abuse. Common estimates of such waste and fraud nationally assume that 10% of related spending applies. In our updated report on the Zero.Zero sales tax initiative, the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity referred to a U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform document that uses that number.
Estimates from the federal Department of Health and Human Services, however, put current “improper payments” at 7.1%, with 6.4% as the target.
The governor’s budget document for fiscal year 2014 revises the current estimate of what the state will spend this year on “medical assistance” (i.e., Medicaid) to $1.616 billion, going up to $1.743 billion next year. Using the 2013 estimate puts the range for waste, fraud, and abuse for Medicaid alone at between $114.7 million and $161.6 million.
The other large portion of wasteful government spending in the report pertains to the food stamp program – also known as the “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program” (SNAP) – which uses electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards to distribute the funds.
As predicted by a post in The Ocean State Current prior to the report’s release by the Chafee administration, and based on report on government waste that U.S. Senator Tom Coburn (R, OK) published in October, dead people in Rhode Island often receive food-stamp benefits.
Coburn’s report actually provides a low-end, for our purposes, estimating around 3% in “improper payments” nationwide. The more official number from the Department of Agriculture is 3.8%, however the Associated Press reported that Rhode Island’s “error rate” for the food stamp program in 2012 was 7.69%.
Governor Chafee’s revised expenditure for SNAP in 2013 is $298.2 million, recommended to hold steady through 2014. That puts the range for food stamp waste, fraud, and abuse between $11.3 million and $22.9 million.
In summary, our Center estimates that the total amount of criminal and abusive activity in Rhode Island’s current human services programs is in the range of $126 million to $184.5 million.
However the story does not end with today’s figures. With the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and the Secretary of Health and Human Services opting to support expansion of Medicaid, as provided under the Affordable Care Act, the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity expects that an additional $36.5 million of taxpayer money will be abused as part of the anticipated $365 million in new Medicaid spending in future years.
This could bring the total amount of waste and fraud up to $221 million per year.