Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Archive for the ‘Federal Government’ Category

WA scores well in one aspect of Medicaid fraud detection

by John Stang September 7th, 2012

Washington state is batting almost 1,000 in due diligence checks of Medicaid applicants for financial eligibility, but needs to run checks on their vehicle ownership to ensure it is properly weeding out those whose net assets are too high to qualify for the program, according to a recent U.S. General Accountability Office report. The report by GAO, which performs program evaluations and related investigations at the request of members of Congress, looked at how thoroughly all 50 states and the District of Columbia vet their long-term Medicaid applicants for one sub-category of eligibility standards. The feds list 13 potential categories of assets that can be checked to ensure applicants are not fraudulently transferring them or failing to report them, so they don’t count toward Medicaid eligibility. A 2007 Medicaid fraud conviction of a woman in New Hampshire accented the risks. As of July, Washington was doing the necessary checking in 12 of those 13 categories; the exception being vehicle ownership. Idaho too verifies 12 categories, also not tackling vehicles, while Oregon verifies all 13 categories for its long-term Medicaid applicants. It is one of 20 states to do so.

Overall, though, the state could do significantly better in detecting Medicaid fraud, say legislators. As reported earlier at Public Data Ferret, upon passage last spring of a new law effective this July 1, to ratchet up Medicaid fraud penalties, Washington State Sen. Karen Keiser (D-Kent) blogged, “Experts from the National Conference of State Legislatures estimate the cost of Medicaid fraud accounts for 3 and 10 percent of total Medicaid expenditures. Washington spent $8.5 billion on Medicaid last year only to recover less than $20 million in fraud. At its most optimistic, the state’s recovery rate tops out at less than 1 percent.”

CBO infographic explains deficit, debt, taxes, services

by Matt Rosenberg August 28th, 2012

A recently released report and infographic from the U.S. Congressional Budget Office warn that Congress should stick to its guns and execute the intent of the federal deficit reduction laws it has passed in recent years, or risk putting the nation on an “unsustainable” fiscal path. Ending as planned a wide range of existing tax cuts including two percent off the Social Security payroll tax, plus making other planned benefits reductions to Medicare and unemployment, and allowing the planned triggering in 2013 of automatic cuts in discretionary and mandatory federal spending, would cut the federal deficit from a projected $1.1 trillion at the end of fiscal 2012 (ending Sept. 30) to $640 billion in fiscal 2013, says CBO.

Sticking to the planned 2013 reforms will shave away some economic growth and keep unemployment slightly higher, but more importantly, says CBO, it will prevent the federal public debt from soaring to 90 percent of Gross Domestic Product, a level not seen since World War 2. The infographic concludes, “Because current policies would ultimately lead to an unsustainable level of federal debt, policymakers will need to adopt – at some point – policies that will require people to pay significantly more in taxes, accept substantially less in government benefits and services, or both.”

Here below in three parts is the infographic prepared by CBO. Use your Web browser’s “zoom in” feature to increase the size of the print, as needed. Or view it here.

Public Data Ferret’s U.S. Government+ Finance/Budget archive

Public Data Ferret is a news knowledge base program of the Seattle-based 501c3 public charity, Public Eye Northwest. Ferret In The News. Donate; subscribe (free)/volunteer.

Magnolia seafood firm pays $430,000 pollution settlement

by Matt Rosenberg August 12th, 2012

Headquartered at Fishermen’s Terminal in Interbay at the eastern edge of Seattle’s Magnolia neighborhood, across from historic Ballard, Icicle Seafoods is a King Salmon in the U.S. seafood industry. Icicle harvests and processes several species of fish and crab from Alaskan waters, runs fish farming operations in the Northwest and Chile, and more than 20 years ago developed ground-breaking new technologies for freezing fresh catch at sea. The Seattle Times has reported Icicle is now owned by a New York-based private investment fund, and had 2010 sales of $400 million. But last Friday in a signed consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice that was drawn up on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency, Icicle agreed to pay a $430,000 settlement for a series of U.S. Clean Air Act violations from 2006 to 2008, for discharges of an ozone-depleting refrigerant called R-22 from its seagoing vessels and processing facilities.

Report: Asia prime turf for American wood pellets

by John Stang July 30th, 2012

The Asian wood pellet market is growing, and the the United States and Canada are poised to be a prime source for it, according to a second-quarter 2012 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Pacific Northwest Research Station. “The West Coast is in a strong position to supply Asia with wood pellets, drawing on both timber supply and proximity to Asian markets,” the report said.

China, Japan and South Korea have large demands for wood pellets for home heating and for mixing with coal in power plants. The primary use for wood pellets in Asia is co-firing at coal-power plants. “Therefore, business development should include….coal power plants that have an interest in increasing their renewable energy output,” the report said. This demand meshes with the Obama administration’s goal of doubling exports from $1 trillion to $2 trillion by 2015 – enough to create a cabinet level post to pursue that target, the report said.

Pertussis in WA hit Hispanics at double the rate of others

by Matt Rosenberg July 23rd, 2012

The headline-grabbing outbreak of whooping cough, or Pertussis, in Washington state this year affected Hispanics at a rate more than twice that of non-Hispanics, according to a new report from the Washington State Department of Health and U.S. researchers that was published late last week by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control in the CDC’s journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The report “Pertussis Epidemic – Washington 2012″ found that in the large percentage of cases where ethnicity and race were known, that “statewide cumulative incidence was higher in Hispanics than non-Hispanics (53.1 versus 24.6 cases per 100,000 population).”

WA eyes new U.S. transpo bill funds, but with questions

by John Stang July 18th, 2012

The passage of a new two-year $100 billion-plus federal transportation funding bill by Congress June 29 is expected to bring roughly $652 million to Washington state in 2013 and $657 million in 2014, compared to roughly $652 million for 2012, according to federal Department of Transportation estimates. But the new law is an authorization bill – meaning Congress still has to actually appropriate the money later when each fiscal year rolls around. Most telling, that $1.309 billion in the next two years is a tiny drop in the bucket, compared to the $50 billion that a blue ribbon panel appointed by Gov. Christine Gregoire said in January that the state needs to raise to maintain and strategically improve surface transportation infrastructure in the next ten years (Page 3, here ). That’s so, even compared to the “lowered expectations” scenario in the task force report, which urges raising at least $21 billion in the next decade for the state’s road and transit systems. A poster child for Washington’s transportation funding shortfall is the new State Route 520 bridge, now under construction. It is still about $2 billion short of the needed funding, which totals more than $4 billion.

Green tourism campaign eyes fewer cars to San Juans

by Matt Rosenberg July 16th, 2012

It’s a Pacific Northwest ritual endured by visitors, newcomers and even old-timers who should know better. Book a trip to one of the idyllic San Juan Islands served by the Washington State Ferries’ stolid vehicle-bearing vessels. Then wait for hours in line at the mainland dock in Anacortes, and plot a better strategy for next time. Rinse, and repeat a few summers later. A consortium of San Juans government, tourism, and non-profit officials say there’s a better way, or at least some painless alternatives that warrant stronger promotion. So at a presentation to the Friday Harbor, Wash. Town Council July 19, leaders of the San Juan Islands Scenic Byways Partnership will discuss their plans to accent car-free travel to the popular vacation spots of San Juan Island and Orcas Island, aided by a new, two-year $171,000 alternative transportation grant from the America’s Byways office of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Atop Mount Constitution, Orcas Island/San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau

The new grant to promote transportation alternatives comes at a timely juncture.

Medicaid fraud fixes top of mind in both Washingtons

by William McKee July 3rd, 2012

It was just weeks after Washington State enacted a landmark Medicaid anti-fraud measure, and only weeks before a U.S. Supreme Court ruling cleared the way for a sweeping federal health care bill that, as the Seattle Times reported, will boost Medicaid enrollment in Washington state by an estimated 42 percent within several years after its 2014 implementation. In other words, it was a good time for a top Washington state health care official to join national colleagues in testimony to a Congressional subcommittee that’s trying to help the federal bureaucracy and states better trace and reduce Medicaid fraud through improved data and data analytics. Douglas Porter, director of the Washington State Health Care Authority, which administers the Medicaid program here, testified recently to the Federal Financial Management Subcommittee of the U.S. Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee that, “There’s a lot of data and very little good information. Poorly collected and poorly analyzed data is what’s giving us the problem. The Medicaid Statistical Information System is not uniformly reported on by all states, making apples to apples comparisons very difficult.” The hearing was titled “Saving Taxpayer Dollars by Curbing Waste and Fraud in Medicaid.”

Other challenges facing the Medicaid system, Porter testified, are the loss of staff administrative resources and outdated and ineffective Medicaid fraud detection programs that give little return on investments. In Washington state, Medicaid programs funded by the state and federal governments pay for delivery of medical, dental, behavioral health, and long-term care to an 1.2 million low-income Washingtonians on average per month. Porter in his testimony to federal lawmakers had some additional suggestions for curbing improper Medicaid payments by better sharing information on “bad actors” bilking the system; adopting common technical standards; and using distance learning.