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Erie County to Use Computers to Track Medicaid Abuse

By Joyce Kryszak

Buffalo, NY – Erie County officials announced plans Wednesday to combat Medicaid fraud and abuse. The county will be one of only twelve in the state initially participating in the new Medicaid tracking system.

Officials say most health care providers are honest. But the ones who are not are costing New York taxpayers billions of dollars. It was a New York Times series of articles that uncovered the abuse. Just one example officials say is a provider that billed for hundreds of visits for patients who didn't exist.

The new computer program, called Verify New York, is designed to catch those kind irregular or false claims. County officials say the program could end as much as $80 million of Medicaid fraud locally.

The program will be contracted to IBM. The state will reimburse counties for the cost of the contracts. Stephen La Fleche, client director for IBM, says the software tracking system has already saved millions in the private health industry.

To augment the effort, County Executive Joel Giambra says his 2006 budget will include restorations to the county's fraud unit -- plus two or three additional inspectors. He says the investment will more than pay for itself by halting abuse.

Still, Giambra confirmed Wednesday that taxpayers will likely see at least a 50 percent tax increase in the 2006 budget. His four year plan will be released Monday.