At the quarterly meeting of the Medicaid and Public Assistance Fraud Strike Force on Wednesday, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Department of Children and Families (DCF) Secretary David Wilkins announced the results of a study commissioned by the Strike Force to measure fraud in the Florida’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)—a federal program run according to guidelines mandated by the federal government.
Compiled by ERS Group, the study found a 7.5 percent rate of fraud, waste and abuse in Florida’s SNAP program. The study also found an average overpayment of benefits rate of 3.22 percent, which would mean potentially more than $100 million in fiscal year 2010–11 was lost to fraud, waste and abuse.
“The results of this study confirm what my Division of Public Assistance Fraud has been seeing for years—public assistance fraud is a financial burden on our state and robs deserving Floridians of access to needed benefits,” CFO Jeff Atwater said. “For the first time, this study shows us the scope of the fraud problem in this federal program and is the first step in laser focusing our efforts toward combating the fraud and ensuring that those who legitimately need assistance are receiving it.”
DCF recently announced that Florida is now the first state to implement customer authentication to verify a client’s identity before an application is processed. The new customer authentication process will use the same technology as banks and other financial institutions to verify an individual’s identity. This includes asking a series of questions regarding the individual’s financial history, residence, property and more.
“This new program is one of many steps DCF has taken in the past two years to transform our business from a ‘pay-and-chase’ fraud detection to an upfront program that keeps the money out of the hands of those who would defraud the system and waste your taxpayer dollars,” DCF Secretary David Wilkins said.
DCF has instituted many new technologies, procedures and contracts to tackle fraud in Florida’s SNAP program.
- Monitoring social media sites like Craigslist to stop people from buying and selling EBT cards.
- New EBT contract that saves millions of dollars and has dedicated fraud prevention efforts.
- Monitoring of multiple requests for replacement cards.
- Enhanced data matching, including refusing benefits to individuals in jail or prison or those receiving benefits in another state.
- Automated closure of some cases when the benefit period ends.
Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, (R-FL) a statewide elected official and officer of the Florida Cabinet, oversees the Department of Financial Services. Atwater’s priorities include fighting financial fraud, abuse and waste in government, reducing government spending and regulatory burdens that chase away businesses, and providing transparency and accountability.