Tips from Texas for covering Medicaid fraud, overtreatment

Mary Otto

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health and the author of "Teeth: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America." She can be reached at mary@healthjournalism.org.

Becca Aaronson

For the past two years, as a health writer for the Texas Tribune, Becca Aaronson has been covering the state’s Medicaid orthodontic scandal.

A 2012 federal audit found that Texas Medicaid and Healthcare Partnership (TMHP), a Xerox subsidiary that had been processing Medicaid claims for the state since 2004, had been “essentially rubber-stamping” dental claims.

Questions about the system were first brought to light in the 2011 “Crooked Teeth” investigation aired by WFAA-Dallas. Aaronson credits that strong coverage with helping get her started on this story.

Aaronson’s most recent stories offered readers an update on the state investigation into allegations of widespread fraud and unnecessary treatment.

In a May 9 piece, she reported on the decision by the state Health and Human Services Commission to terminate its contract with TMHP.  In addition, the office of the Texas Attorney General is suing Xerox in hopes of reclaiming hundreds of millions of dollars the company allegedly paid out for medically unnecessary Medicaid claims, she wrote.

In a recent conversation, Aaronson shared what got her interested in the story, how she pursued it over an extended period of time, how she got the documents she needed and her advice on using Medicaid claims data to report on potential fraud or overtreatment. Read more here.

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