The Borat of right-wing, pseudo-journalism, James O’Keefe, has released a new video that purports to expose rampant fraud within the Medicaid system.
As with any video from O’Keefe’s dishonest propaganda mill, the first reaction should be abundant skepticism. After all, this is the same guy who…
- Deceptively edited videos of ACORN reps to make them look bad, even when in reality they had reported him to the police.
- Tried and failed to lure CNN reporter Abbie Boudreau onto his love boat for some still unexplained reason.
- Misrepresented NPR officials so badly on video that Glenn Beck’s web site debunked and denounced him.
- Was arrested for entering the office of a U.S. Senator under false pretenses, presumably to tamper with the phone lines.
O’Keefe is an incorrigible liar whose antics have earned him the distrust of any reputable media enterprise. His video adventures should be regarded as fiction and dismissed out of hand.
This latest effort starred a couple of self-identified wealthy Russian drug dealers seeking assistance from Medicaid (Why would wealthy drug dealers need federal aid?). This piece has all the earmarks of O’Keefe’s prior fraudulent work. There is plenty of opportunity for him to have mangled the video to make the context unrecognizable from what actually took place. The audio could easily have been altered to make it appear as if the targets were responding to comments that were never made in their presence. There is no reference point from which to determine whether any of his targets had repelled the phony instigators. Surely any laudable behavior would have already been edited out by O’Keefe. This is textbook manipulation as practiced by O’Keefe in the past.
However, the worst part of this supposedly shocking expose is that there is nothing remotely shocking about it. First of all, O’Keefe failed to prove that any fraudulent activity had taken place. There were no applications for aid submitted or approved. Had it proceeded to that point the process would have required his agents to provide Social Security and other personal and financial information that would have prevented any such approval. And the Medicaid reps are probably trained not to challenge people who might be dangerous, such as Russian drug dealers. Consequently the reps were openly patronizing and repeatedly advised them to go someplace else.
Even if there were an opportunity to successfully commit some sort of fraud, it would have amounted to pittance that would hardly have an impact on the Medicaid budget. There is a larger question at play here. Is O’Keefe trying to make the point that there is fraud in the Medicaid system? Saints preserve us – that can’t be.
Nobody in or out of the Department of Health and Human Services would deny that fraud occurs and is a significant problem. That’s why the Department works strenuously to uncover and eliminate such fraud. They work closely with the Attorney General to prosecute lawbreakers. And their efforts bring results such as a bust earlier this year that snared 111 individuals who had been responsible for more than $225 million in false billings. The “Strike Force” set up to investigate these crimes has proven to be impressively successful.
Since their inception in March 2007, Strike Force operations in nine districts have charged more than 990 individuals who collectively have falsely billed the Medicaid program for more than $2.3 billion.
So what is O’Keefe’s team trying to prove? That they can swindle some low grade clerks into passing them off to other agencies while not actually committing any fraud? That they can save the government a few bucks while the government, without their help, is saving billions? If anything, O’Keefe and company are probably getting in the way.
That, in fact, may be their true intention. The only reason they engaged in this bit of childish play-acting is to disparage Medicaid and do harm to its mission of helping people get access to health care. O’Keefe would be satisfied if his deceitful operation were to put an end to Medicaid or cripple it by cutting its funding. Of course, Medicaid would not be the victim. It would be the millions of Americans who rely on it – the elderly, the poor, the young, the disabled. These are the people whose lives O’Keefe seeks to make ever more difficult. He must be so proud.