Despite O'Keefe's Claims, New Video Doesn't Show "Widespread Medicaid Fraud"

Blog ››› ››› KAREN FAMIGHETTI

James O'Keefe, who has a history of releasing deceptively edited videos that ultimately failed to back up his claims, has come out with a new video. This time, he claims that "citizen journalists have uncovered widespread Medicaid fraud."

The video is a compilation of several clips, showing two men, posing as Russian drug smugglers who own an expensive car, visiting offices of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services in Columbus, Marion County, Madison County, and Franklin County, Ohio. The men are asking about applying for Medicaid for their father and are not applying for Medicaid coverage for themselves.

All of the clips are edited, and the presentation concludes with the "uncut" video of the visit to the office in Columbus. In the videos, the government employees help the two men through the application process, and the worker in Columbus emphasizes that she cannot definitively say whether or not their father is eligible to receive Medicaid. This worker is also clear that assets such as insurance and cars registered in their father's name have to be declared on the application.

The men also ask the worker in Columbus about obtaining abortions for their sister, who they claim provides sexual favors. The worker refers the men to Planned Parenthood, and explains that Planned Parenthood does not "go by age" in providing abortions. Here, the worker is mistaken: Ohio restricts access to abortion for women under 18 and requires parental consent. However, she does not purport to be a resource on abortion, and recommends that the men contact Planned Parenthood directly.

Given that most of the videos are edited and that we only see an "uncut" version of one of them, it does not appear that O'Keefe has uncovered "widespread" fraud. The workers in the videos help the men through the Medicaid application process and do not guarantee eligibility for their father. In the edited videos, we do not see the full responses of the workers.

The Columbus worker does assure the two men in the video that they are not at risk of having their homes searched, something they purported to be concerned about. She also suggests that the men leave the expensive car off of their father's Medicaid application if it is not registered in the U.S. Ben Johnson, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, explained that the employees in the videos were county, not state, employees, and made the following statement:

The video is obviously very troubling, we are looking into the matter, we are working with the counties to try and find out what exactly happened. ... Should the video turn out to be accurate, we would hope the counties would at the very least discipline these workers.

[...]

Before actually providing Medicaid services, there's a verification process that involves Social Security numbers, applicants have to prove citizenship, so some of the issues this video raises would have eventually come to light in the application process. [Politico, 7/18/11]

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James O'Keefe
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