Robinson, Hood still feuding over Miss. Medicaid

Published 1:39 am Sunday, November 8, 2009

Weeks after publicly criticizing each other, Mississippi Medicaid director Bob Robinson and state Attorney General Jim Hood are again exchanging sharp words.

The two men appeared Thursday before the Joint Legislative Budget Committee.

The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reported that Robinson said Hood’s office had collected a little more than $6,000 in Medicaid fraud cases in six years. Robinson said the Medicaid office had collected more than $3 million.

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“Medicaid has no authority to prosecute fraud and abuse cases, so we will continue referring cases of suspected fraud or abuse to the A.G.,” Robinson said. “However, if past history is any example, I am very concerned as to how we will create a strong deterrent when there have been virtually no prosecutions for Medicaid fraud and abuse in Mississippi by the attorney general.”

Hood said the Division of Medicaid had referred only 26 cases to his office in six years and only one this year. He said private individuals had referred more than 100 and his office had collected $37 million for the state.

Hood said one case referred to his office by Medicaid involved the purchase of adult diapers. Hood said the case involved an older child who needed diapers for medical reasons but was too big for youth diapers.

“You can’t prosecute somebody for that,” Hood said.

Robinson was appointed Medicaid director by Republican Gov. Haley Barbour. Hood is a Democrat and has feuded with Barbour over other issues.

On Sept. 23, Robinson appeared before the Joint Legislative Budget Committee and said Hood had refused to prosecute a possible case of $24 million in fraud by a man paid to provide behavioral services to Medicaid patients. Robinson did not name the person he believed committed fraud.

Hood did not attend the Sept. 23 meeting but said later that day that he didn’t know the details of case Robinson discussed. Hood told The Associated Press that day: “If they showed us a criminal case, we pursued it.”

It was later revealed that Robinson was referring to Tri-Lakes Hospital in Batesville, where Lee County resident Ray Shoemaker had served as an administrator.

On Oct. 2, Shoemaker filed a lawsuit against Robinson in Hinds County Circuit Court over the comments Robinson had made to lawmakers. Hood’s office is defending Robinson in the lawsuit.

On Thursday, Hood said he was limited in what he could say because of ongoing investigations and because of the lawsuit against Robinson.

However, Hood said the Division of Medicaid does not properly monitor payments it makes to health care providers. Because of that, the program had made overpayments, but that does not necessarily mean someone has broken the law, Hood said.