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Rauner urges Pritzker to fight Medicaid fraud

By Greg Bishop
Illinois News Network

SPRINGFIELD — Gov. Bruce Rauner is urging the incoming administration to continue his work in rooting out waste, fraud and abuse in the state’s Medicaid system, and to clarify rules for state workers who belong to the same union as the employees they supervise.

Rauner said both issues cost taxpayers “hundreds of millions of dollars every year.”

The governor’s office said its Health Care Fraud Elimination Task Force saved $218 million while the Department of Healthcare and Family Services Inspector General saved or recouped $190 million in fiscal 2018.

“The effort resulted in 39 fraud convictions including $27.8 million in recoveries through criminal prosecutions, civil actions, and/or administrative referrals,” according to a statement from Rauner’s office. “The task force has saved the state more than $665 million since its inception in 2016.”

Rauner took to a podium Wednesday in Chicago with a little more than a month left in his term to herald the work of his administration. He said Gov.-elect J.B. Pritzker should continue that focus.

“During this transition time, we need to summarize some of the most important challenges that we have been addressing for the people of the state,” Rauner said.

He said there’s an estimated $1 billion in improper Medicaid payments in Illinois.

Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services Director Patti Bellock said Medicaid is extremely important for taxpayers.

“We spend $23 billion a year on Medicaid in the state of Illinois, just in the state of Illinois,” Bellock said. “That’s over $2 million an hour and that’s why this issue is so important.”

She said catching waste, fraud and abuse ensures tax dollars are going to those who really need the help.

Rauner also highlighted another problem that he said costs taxpayers a significant amount of money. He said state government departments are “hamstrung” by having managers in the union of the staff that they are supervising.

“It creates conflicts of interest when it comes to discipline,” Rauner said. “It creates conflicts of interest when it comes to work scheduling. It creates conflicts when it comes to labor negotiations and interactions between state government and the taxpayers and the union that represents many of the mainline staff in our departments.”

Rauner said managers often make less than those they supervise and should instead be paid based on merit. He encouraged Pritzker’s administration to work to clarify the issue of whether it is even allowed under federal or state labor law.

Messages seeking reaction from Pritzker’s campaign were not immediately returned.

Rauner the issue of union managers was not related to the landmark Janus case. In that case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled this summer that public employees can’t be forced to pay union dues.

That case was originally spearheaded by Rauner, but a court found he had no standing. Former state employee Mark Janus picked up the case from there and took it all the way to the supreme court and won meaning all public employees across the country, whether they are state, county, city or school district employees, can’t be forced to pay “fair share” fees to a union as a condition of employment.

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