SALEM - Dead people, prisoners and lottery winners, what do they have in common? They are Oregonians who got public assistance despite their new circumstances, according to a new audit by Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown’s office.
The auditors came up with a novel idea - why not compare data bases for dead Oregonians with those receiving public assistance?
The results revealed Medicaid money totaling $5.3 million paid to 586 dead people and food assistance totaling $1.5 million paid out to 543 dead people over an 11-year period.
“Like many Oregonians, I found some findings in the audit absolutely unacceptable,” said Brown.
But the Chief Operating Officer for Oregon’s Department of Human Services says it’s not as bad as it looks.
“About half these cases, were cases where they coded the number into the system, they coded it wrong. So it inadvertently matched the Social Security of somebody who was dead,” said Jim Scherzinger.
But there’s more.
Over a two-year period, auditors found inmates received Medicaid services totaling $296,000 while in prison. It’s highly questionable, because prisoners get free treatment when locked up. They also got more than $100,000 worth of food assistance. The state is looking into how they will get some or all of that money back.
And then there’s the lottery. Auditors found one person got Medicaid payments of $43,000, despite the fact that they won three different jackpots totaling $200,000. Another person won $900,000 and continued to get food assistance.
“Look, I think most Oregonians would say that it is unacceptable for a person who receives over $900,000 from the lottery to continue to receive public assistance. In my mind that is absolutely unacceptable,” said Secretary of State Brown.
Scherzinger, from DHS, agreed some rules need to change. He agreed that keeping a big lottery winner on public assistance is not defensible.
“It’s not. We’re not saying it is. We’re saying the way to get it is through a targeted legislation that allows us to go straight to them and end that,” Scherzinger said.