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Woman charged with $60,000 Medicaid fraud

Michelle Theriault Boots

A city property tax appraiser is being charged with fraudulently billing Medicaid for more than $60,000 while moonlighting as a "personal care attendant" for her father and step-mother, the state Department of Law said Monday.

Lorie Nabong Batac, 36, is being charged with two counts of felony medical assistance fraud.

She is alleged to have billed Medicaid for services at times between 2008-2012 when records show she was actually working as a cashier at Home Depot and at times when her clients were out of the country. Court documents say that she was also working as a full-time property tax appraiser for `the Municipality of Anchorage. City officials wouldn't confirm on Tuesday whether she was still employed by the city.

In one instance Batac offered detailed observations about her client's care on her timesheet, noting that his sugar levels were OK but his leg was hurting, according to the charges. He was in Korea at the time, the charges say.

The prosecution is one of 20 for Medicaid fraud in Alaska since last October.

The state recently doubled the number of investigators devoted to discovering fraud in an expansive -- and expensive -- system that serves and employs thousands and costs more than $100 million a year.

Medicaid personal care attendants are supposed to save the state money by keeping elderly, ill and disabled people out of nursing homes by offering subsidized in-home care, said Duane Mayes, the director of the state's Senior and Disabilities Services program.

About 5,300 Alaskans receive services from a statewide workforce of about 9,000 personal care attendants, Mayes said.

In the 2012 fiscal year, the state spent $120 million on payments to PCAs, up from $109 million the year before, Mayes said. Some of that money came from federal funds.

Costs are on an "escalation path," said Andrew Peterson of the state's Department of Law.

The system is ripe for fraud.

Care attendants work in private homes, often with medically fragile or elderly people. Licensing requirements are minimal.

"We're finding fraud in areas that are hard to prove," said Peterson, who has been head of the unit that prosecutes Medicaid fraud since October 2012.

In one recent case charged by Peterson's division, two personal care attendants were being paid to care for a person who was actually living in American Samoa. In another case taxi drivers accepted Medicaid vouchers for transporting undercover agents from Chilkoot Charlie's to Northern Lights Bingo, with a stop at a liquor store. The vouchers are supposed to be used only between a person's residence and a medical destination like a doctor's office. In a third case a man was so severely neglected by his paid personal care attendant that by the time he was taken to a hospital he hadn't eaten for days and his toes were "basically rotting off his foot" from gangrene, according to court documents.

Some PCAs are placed through agencies.

People can hire their own personal care assistant -- such as a daughter or son -- directly.

In many of the cases Peterson has prosecuted people have been turned in by friends or relatives.

Batac's ex-husband reported her to the state's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, according to court documents.

He was also charged with medical assistance fraud.

 

Reach Michelle Theriault Boots at mtheriault@adn.com or 257-4344.

 

 

 


By MICHELLE THERIAULT BOOTS
mtheriault@adn.com