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Mississippi editorial roundup

Published on NewsOK Modified: October 15, 2014 at 3:09 pm •  Published: October 15, 2014
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Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:

Oct. 14

The Clarion-Ledger, Jackson, Mississippi, on Palasini and Medicaid problems:

The case of Gina Palasini illustrates several problems with not only the Mississippi Division of Medicaid but also the way state agencies communicate when potential fraud and wrongdoing is at play.

Palasini is the Mississippi woman facing multiple fraud charges for allegedly bilking seniors across the country out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Palasini worked as a Medicaid planner, someone who assists people obtain Medicaid benefits.

In the wake of an investigative report by The Clarion-Ledger, state lawmakers now are looking into possible changes in state law that would provide more oversight of Medicaid planners.

This would be the first obvious step. People who are working as Medicaid planners should have to register with the state, at the least. Licensing might be too restrictive, but an annual reporting of activity should provide enough of a deterrent to stop many future scammers.

But Palasini's alleged role in the scams is only part of the problem. The more we learn about her story and her former clients who claim she conned them, the more we see systematic breakdowns within the Division of Medicaid and throughout other state agencies who have at least marginal oversight over the work Palasini conducted in Mississippi.

Multiple people within the Division of Medicaid had been warned about Palasini and even warned their superiors, some regional offices going so far as refusing to deal with her. Yet those in a position of authority in the agency never sought a course of action that would have prevented future fraud.

But the Division of Medicaid would have had limited options even if it had discovered Palasini was defrauding her clients. The agency's only recourse in such a situation is to submit the alleged fraud to the attorney general's office.

Attorney General Jim Hood said his office received five complaints about Palasini starting in 2012. However, failure to act on them was blamed on a number of reasons, including lack of evidence or jurisdictional constraints.

Even the Mississippi Department of Insurance had trouble with Palasini. The department revoked her insurance license for forging an annuity contract in 2006. However, the Department of Insurance has no authority over benefits planning, so it forwarded any complaints on that topic to Hood's office.

It's easy for each of these agencies to highlight the restrictions preventing them from taking action and then pass blame to someone else. However, the real truth here is that at every step of the way fraud was allowed to continue because no one sought a way to do something about it. The lack of inter-agency cooperation clearly allowed fraud to continue.

Lawmakers can start with trying to stop individuals from perpetrating fraud, but we all know crime will never cease. So if those same lawmakers don't look to strengthen inter-agency cooperation and reporting where fraud exists, then it will be innocent people like the Wrights who continue to pay the price for the failure of the state agencies that are supposed to be serving them.

Online:

http://www.clarionledger.com

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Oct. 13

The Greenwood (Mississippi) Commonwealth on gas prices:

Something unusual has happened around Mississippi in recent weeks: The price of gasoline has fallen below $3 per gallon for the first time in a while.

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