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Sink tees up Medicaid fraud against McCollum, he blames feds

As Florida hemorrhages as much as $3.2 billion in Medicaid fraud a year, Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink proposed reforms Thursday and pinned much of the blame for the problem on her political opponent, Attorney General Bill McCollum.

Sink, a Democrat running for governor, said that since McCollum took office, the number of Medicaid fraud cases opened has dropped from 727 in 2004-05 to 372 in 2008-09. Florida has the second highest number of Medicaid recipients in the nation, but ranks 39th in convictions per person in its fraud unit.

``This is not a new problem but nobody is focused on it or paying attention to it,'' Sink said. ``Every time I go to South Florida, I hear about some fly-by-night company who's billing the state for a Cadillac wheelchair and they're providing the Ford version and pocketing the difference.''

McCollum, a Republican seeking his party's nomination for governor, agrees there is room for improvement -- but he places the blame on the federal government.

In two letters to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in the past year, he notedthat a 1992 federal rule prohibits the state from screening Medicaid claims to look for a pattern of fraud. He asked Sebelius to waive the rule so his department could work with the agency that administers Medicaid, the Agency for Health Care Administration, to ferret out corruption. Full story here.