Medicaid Audit Questions Nearly $1 Billion in Spending

Curt Woodward, AP, April 27, 2006

OLYMPIA, Wash.—Washington state’s Medicaid program made nearly $1 billion in questionable payments last year, and may have to refund millions of dollars for improperly paying illegal immigrants’ medical bills, a state audit said Thursday.

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Auditors identified nearly 30 problem areas for the program. The nearly $1 billion in questioned spending includes more than $83 million in payments for thousands of illegal immigrants’ medical expenses.

Half of that money came from the federal government, which only allows its share of Medicaid to be spent on undocumented immigrants in emergencies.

The state was paying providers for non-emergency care, including treatments for ingrown toenails, dental care and acne, auditors said.

“This is causing the nation’s taxpayers to subsidize Washington state’s noncompliance,” the audit said.

That total includes up to $32 million in federal money spent on care for pregnant undocumented immigrants, despite an order to limit that care to childbirth. The state may have to refund that money to the federal government, the audit said.

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