Audit finds 5% of Medicaid recipients in Miss. should be ineligible

Published: Aug. 2, 2021 at 12:12 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - An audit of federal money by Mississippi State Auditor Shad White revealed some people receiving Medicaid who were ineligible.

The audit sampled 180 Medicaid beneficiaries in the state and revealed that about five percent were ineligible because of their high income on their tax return.

Medicaid makes up 49 percent of federal funds spent by the state.

“I want to thank the team of auditors who worked this year on the Single Audit,” added White. “With every finding, they are putting their licenses on the line. They do so to make our state better and out of fidelity to the taxpayers.”

White said the state is potentially handing out tens of millions of dollars in Medicaid money to ineligible people.

“They’re clearly not the kinds of folks that Medicaid was designed to help. And those are the kinds of folks that we need to crack down on, those are the kinds of dollars that need to be not spent on Medicaid, and then instead need to be spent on folks who are actually deserving of Medicaid or other programs that the state deems fit,” White said.

If that five percent from the sample stayed constant across the state, a 3 On Your Side analysis estimates 35,000 Mississippians could be abusing the Medicaid system.

State Sen. Brice Wiggins, R-Pascagoula, said that’s a conservative estimate.

“I’m sure it’s higher. I mean, my background is that I was a prosecutor for almost a decade prosecuting white collar crimes along with other felonies,” Wiggins said. “And the desire of us as humans to game the system is not going away.”

White said the most egregious cases they found involved two people who made six-figure salaries, had homes valued in excess of a million dollars and got Medicaid benefits, too.

The report helped illustrate that the Division of Medicaid does not have legal authority to compare state income tax returns with the income claimed by Medicaid applicants.

White hopes the findings will convince legislators to change that.

Wiggins, who serves on the senate’s Medicaid committee, supports giving the Division of Medicaid the ability to do what White’s office already did.

“I personally, and I can say my colleagues, are tired of that. And we’ll do what we need to do,” Wiggins said.

Click here to read the full report.

3 On Your Side reached out to Matt Westerfield, who serves as communication director for the state agency, to comment on the state auditor’s findings.

Westerfield read our request but did not respond.

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