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Comptroller's Desk
Medicaid Abuses Must Be Addressed

As a momma and a grandmomma, I am concerned with the health and well-being of our foster kids. And as Comptroller, I am also concerned with potential Medicaid prescription drug fraud and abuse in the system because of the high cost of many of these prescriptions.

Under my statutory responsibility for the Texas Health Care Fraud Study, I recently requested additional prescription drug and claims data for foster children from the Health and Human Services Commission. As Chairman of the Medicaid and Public Assistance Fraud Oversight Task Force, I will provide any evidence I find of prescription drug fraud and abuse and make necessary recommendations to the task force and the Legislature.

I am equally concerned about the potential for fraud and abuse of our state's Medicaid prescription drug program within the state's foster care system. In my report, Forgotten Children, released April 2004, I looked at one month's data on the use of psychotropic drugs by children in the foster care system.

Children as young as three years old are receiving powerful, mind-altering drugs. We need to examine a year's worth of data to determine whether these drugs are being prescribed to make our foster children more submissive, or to line the pockets of unscrupulous and uncaring doctors and pharmaceutical companies, or both.

More than 272,331 state and federal dollars were spent on anti-psychotics for foster children in one month and more than $74,000 on anti-depressants. It is not uncommon for one child to have prescriptions totaling more than $1,000 a month and for some children to have up to 14 different prescriptions. Conservatively, the estimated annual cost of anti-depressants and anti-psychotic drugs for children in the foster system is $4 million.

As I have said before, the tragic truth is that some of these children are no better off in the care of the state than they were in the hands of abusive and negligent parents. The abuses within our state's foster care system must be addressed now.

Carole Keeton Strayhorn
Texas Comptroller