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UC Comptroller Calls For Changes to NYS Medicaid Law

KINGSTON � Ulster County Comptroller Elliott Auerbach believes the county should be allowed to audit Medicaid providers. Auerbach, the self-proclaimed "people's watch-dog," said his office has joined with other county comptrollers across the state in calling for a revision of the law that currently restricts their offices from conducting a full-scale audit of the program.

Auerbach said the NYS Department of Health's (DOH) directive does not grant local authorities the power "to conduct traditional audits, administer recovery of overpayments, or use provider sanctions."

Since the county receives Medicaid claims directly from local providers and is financially responsible for almost 25 percent of each claim, Auerbach believes it should play a larger role in the audit process.

New York's DOH grants comptrollers limited powers to audit. In 2008, some $1,300 of Ulster County's Department of Social Services (DSS) client monies had been reported stolen from its Medicaid spend-down program. In 2009, after taking office as Ulster County's first comptroller, Auerbach initiated an audit of the county program.

The Medicaid spend-down program allows certain people to qualify for Medicaid � even if their income is higher than allowed under the eligibility criteria � by paying a portion of money out of pocket each month to the department. The amount of money collected from those clients can range between $25 and $500 a month, Auerbach said.

The comptroller's audit revealed an additional loss of $3,424 in client monies, procedural lapses in cash management, and a lack of internal controls.

Until the law that prohibits his office from a full audit of the program is repealed, Auerbach said he will use his resources "to audit what I can, where I can."

The comptroller claims that Ulster County's DSS has made improvements in its accounting practices since the audit. "They've made some inroads, however, there still are some blind spots that we are not totally comfortable with and it truly has to do with internal controls," he said.

The Race Is On for County Comptroller Seat
Elliott Auerbach, D-Ellenville, Ulster County's first Comptroller, is a familiar face at county-wide events; he attends most county-level meetings, including legislative sessions, and his smiling face appears in the photos of many area functions and local gatherings.

In January, he kicked off his campaign for reelection and received the nomination of his party at last week's convention. Though not official, word on the street is that Auerbach will face off against one of two potential challengers: former Republican legislator and current vice-chair of Ulster County's Independence Party, Fawn Tantillo; and disgruntled Democrat, soon-to-be Independence Party member, Linda McDonough. Both Tantillo and McDonough are seeking the county GOP's endorsement at next week's nominating convention.

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