James O'Keefe is once again making completely false claims about undercover videos of Medicaid employees, saying that he has uncovered evidence of Medicaid fraud. But yet again, he has simply demonstrated that his tactics are fundamentally dishonest.
The latest video shows two women, identified as Medicaid workers in Maine, counseling a man who calls himself “Ted Ceanneidigh” (get it?), who claims to be an Irish fisherman, and who says he imports pharmaceuticals on a boat called The Bob Marley. O'Keefe claims that a Medicaid worker “coaches [Ted] by saying, 'If you can't prove income, you don't have income,'” which O'Keefe claims is evidence of Medicaid fraud and “government workers willing to aid people with criminal backgrounds.”
In fact, the woman O'Keefe has accused of helping hide income and assets simply advised an applicant that he doesn't have to declare income if he doesn't earn any income, and she recruited a more senior colleague to answer more complex questions about income eligibility. That counselor, who identifies herself as Diane, aggressively questioned “Ted” about his sources of income and told him that he will be required to report that he has access to an account that is in his parents' name.
It's an astonishing display of hubris that O'Keefe is promoting this video as proof of Medicaid fraud.
On the video, O'Keefe's undercover reporter claimed that he works for his parents' fishing business on what he described as a “barter system.” The so-called fisherman said his work includes importing pharmaceuticals. “Ted” told a woman identified as a Medicaid worker that he has access to the bank account for the family business, where he deposits the money he earns. But according to “Ted,” he makes no income:
[11:42] It's all cash and precious metals, and so none of this is declared, and once it gets into [his parents'] accounts, what they do with it -- what they file -- is on them and their business. But as far as I'm concerned, I don't have an income. They just help me out. I do have my name -- my name is on their account. So I can pull money from their account, but other than that.
At this point, the Medicaid worker encouraged “Ted” to look into private insurance, but if that is not an option, he could look into Medicaid. She made clear to “Ted” that the only thing she can do -- given the fact that he is not eligible for Medicaid based on age or disability -- would be to put him on a waiting list. “Ted” asked again about income:
[19:29] MEDICAID WORKER: If you have income, we need proof of income.
MEDICAID WORKER: Yeah, like pay stubs or --
TED: But I don't get any.
MEDICAID WORKER: If you don't have --
TED: I don't --
MEDICAID WORKER: If you don't --
TED: See, that's the thing I'm concerned about, because it's all a cash business and --
MEDICAID WORKER: If you don't have proof of income, then you have no income.
At no point in the video did “Ted” fill out an application for or receive any Medicaid benefits. In fact, he declined to do so, claiming not to have ID. When the Medicaid worker offered “Ted” an application to fill out and submit, he asked her to once again go over the eligibility requirements. At this point, the Medicaid worker recruited another woman, identified later as “the senior person” whom she thinks is more qualified to answer “Ted's” questions about what income he would have to declare.
Recall at this point that no evidence of Medicaid fraud or willingness to aid in Medicaid fraud has been demonstrated. Recall as well as the entire point of the exercise has been to illustrate government workers helping criminals hide income and assets to perpetrate Medicaid fraud.
Keep that in mind as a Medicaid worker named Diane makes very clear to “Ted” that income he earns and assets he claims to have access to must be declared [starting around the 28 minute mark]:
And then we have to have verification if you have any type of income.
Diane asked “Ted” whether he is self-employed. Diane asked “Ted” who gives him money. Diane told “Ted” that she would need a letter from his parents verifying exactly how much money they provide him with, and: “They need to sign it, and they need to put a phone number where we can call them to verify that they did actually write the statement.”
Again: this is supposed to be an expose in government workers helping a criminal hide assets from the government in a giant Medicaid fraud racket.
When “Ted” explained that he is on a joint account with his parents that he estimates is worth $400,000, Diane -- who is supposedly helping “Ted” hide his assets -- told him:
That's going to put you way over. We're going to have to look at it. If your name is on that account, we're counting that income as access - you have access to that money.
This is starting to feel pedantic, but keep in mind that it was just a week ago that The New York Times saw fit to run a rather lengthy puff piece on O'Keefe, and yet here he is again defrauding the public with his fabrications.
Anyway, “Ted” offered at this point to take himself off his parents' $400,000 bank account and asked whether he would have to declare his car as an asset, along with his family's fishing boat. “Ted” denied being self-employed, claimed that he only does fishing and pharmaceutical imports for his family's business, and said that his family does not provide him a salary or a stipend - that they only “help me out.”
What followed is the opposite of Medicaid fraud:
[33:48] DIANE: Because you're being evasive to some of the questions, it kind of makes me ask a lot more questions.
Do you understand? Because if you were sitting on this side, then you would be, well they give me this and they give me that. OK. In order for us to be able to help people - we are the financial eligibility people. We have to determine eligibility based on money, based on assets.
So when someone is not giving us - because normally people come in, hand you four pay stubs: this is what I make, this is what I have.
TED: Yeah, I don't have any of that.
DIANE: Correct. OK. So I'm asking you how much money are we talking about per month. Well, they're giving me what I need. It's kind of an evasive.
TED: Yeah. Well, let's say $900 a month.
DIANE: How much is your rent? Where do you live?
TED: I don't pay any of my expenses. They pay it all directly.
Diane asked “Ted” about the number of people employed by the family business. Diane explained to “Ted” the difference between a parent feeding a child and a parent paying someone money in exchange for work.
In short, Diane did a lot of things that tried to get to the bottom of “Ted's” fish tale.
Medicaid fraud is not one of them.
Incidentally, Diane briefly left the room, and the audio track begins skipping [45:00] right before she returns and continues to do so through the end of the video. Thus it is unclear just what she said to “Ted” as he left the Maine Medicaid office. But given O'Keefe's track record, it's a question that warrants aggressive questioning when considering this “sting.”
And it's time for the media to start calling out James O'Keefe for the fraud that he is.