Gazebo Gazette

Earlier in the week, Mississippi State Auditor Shad White released the yearly Single Audit of federal funds flowing through Mississippi state agencies this week. While many of the audit findings repeat previous findings from years of audits past, they also provide additional details about spending at some agencies, such as the Mississippi Division of Medicaid.

Specifically, auditors from the Office of the State Auditor compared the income that Medicaid recipients reported to Medicaid with the income the recipients reported on their state income tax returns.

“The use of these returns to figure out if people are lying to obtain benefits started last year in my office,” said White. “We now have enough data to show there are millions of dollars of potential savings if we can prevent ineligible people from getting on Medicaid. The benefits should only be going to those who deserve to be on the program.”

The details of two individuals who own multi-million dollar homes and declared high incomes on their most recent tax returns, but also receive Medicaid benefits, are highlighted in the audit. Medicaid had already identified the individuals as potential fraud cases to investigate.

The Division of Medicaid currently does not have the legal authority to obtain state income tax returns to compare to the income claimed by Medicaid applicants when they apply for the program.

“Under current law, Medicaid cannot do the analysis we did here,” said White. “I stand ready to work with Medicaid’s leadership to argue to lawmakers that they should have this tool in their toolbox. It could stop ineligible applicants from being put on the program in the first place. We know this tool would be useful because Medicaid’s internal policies state they should ask an applicant for their return, but without the authority to get the return and a requirement to use it, the state is potentially handing out millions to ineligible people.”

The audit sampled 180 Medicaid beneficiaries and found that potentially 5% were ineligible due to their high income reported on their tax return. Medicaid represents 49% of the federal funds spent by the state of Mississippi.