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Buono To Introduce Legislation To Crack Down On Charity Care Fraud

TRENTON – Senator Barbara Buono today announced that she is crafting legislation that would implement many of the recommendations of the State Commission of Investigation (SCI) report on waste and fraud in the state’s charity care system.

“The SCI report was a real eye-opener when it comes to seeing just how vulnerable our charity care system is to fraud,” said Senator Buono, D-Middlesex. “We need to do a better job at monitoring the hundreds of millions of dollars we put into charity care each year so that the money goes to those who truly need it.”

According to Senator Buono, her bill would expand the authority of the Medicaid Inspector General to also be able to investigate cases of charity care fraud. The Commissioner of Health and Senior Services would be required to identify those cases and forward them to the Medicaid Inspector General.

Senator Buono also said that her bill will put into place several of the measures outlined by the SCI as ways of limiting the possibilities of charity care fraud. The bill would require that random audits be performed at least six times a year to verify that those receiving benefits satisfy income guidelines.

“These periodic audits will have a two-fold benefit,” said Senator Buono. “They will discourage patients from trying to game the system while at the same time encourage hospitals to be more vigilant in verifying the incomes of applicants.”

Senator Buono also pointed out that the bill would establish a confidential telephone and e-mail hotline to report cases of charity care fraud and create a uniform charity care application insure all hospitals collect the same information.

“We want to make sure that charity care will be available for everyone who needs it . With these simple, common sense changes to the system, we can better fight waste and fraud and ensure that those otherwise lost millions of dollars go towards treating New Jersey residents,” added Senator Buono.

The charity care program reimburses hospitals for treatment and services they provide to uninsured and underinsured individuals with household incomes of up to 300% of the federal poverty line, which is currently $61,950 for a family of four. Governor Corzine has proposed $583 million in funding for charity care in the FY08 Budget.

Senator Buono said she would introduce the legislation when the Senate returns from the budget break on May 10th.

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