In today’s day and age, federal and state governments work tirelessly to protect the funding for public services such as Medicaid and Medicare. In the past, while the governments focused their fraud watches on hospitals and healthcare providers, they now look at Medicaid recipients themselves, including Melissa Letica Simmons, a 49-year-old woman from Gadsden County, Florida.
The Average Joe vs. Corporate Fraud
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said that Simmons, a home healthcare worker in Gadsden County, one of the poorer counties in Florida, had defrauded taxpayers to the tune of $13,000. As such, Bondi played a role in sentencing Simmons to six months in jail. However, just a few years prior, the state accused three major hospitals of defrauding Medicaid to the tune of millions of dollars. There was no criminal prosecution of any of the parties involved, and the hospitals managed an insignificant punishment – they repaid the funds they stole from taxpayers for only pennies on the dollar.
The State’s “Amicable Settlement”
A Floridian fraud case involving many different hospitals resulted in a statement directly from the state, saying it wanted to “resolve this matter amicably with our industry partners.” Thus, a poor woman receives a six-month jail sentence for a $13,000 crime while several large hospitals receive little to no punishment because the state wants an amicable relationship. Prosecutors rarely want amicable resolutions; they want to see the criminal punished to the extent allowed by law.
How Florida Legislature Views Healthcare Fraud?
According to the aforementioned truths, Florida seems to view those who commit fraud alone as evildoing criminals with an intent to steal from taxpayers. However, when an entire corporation is in on the theft, even to the tune of millions of dollars, it is chalked up to clerical error or misunderstanding. Rather than jailing those responsible – or even forcing them to pay back what they stole – these hospitals and other companies settle for just pennies in order to keep their reputations intact. The judge in the corporate case claims that the men involved had “already been punished” with the damage to their reputations.
As it turns out, it would seem that Aesop was right all along. Sometimes, the government chooses to “hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office” for no other reason than to set an example. With legislators like this, corporations will only continue to commit fraud, while the little guy remains afraid of his own “clerical errors”.