Legislative auditor files suit against Department of Revenue

    Louisiana Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera is suing the Louisiana Department of Revenue for withholding certain state income tax records of Medicaid recipients the auditor is seeking as part of an investigation into Medicaid fraud.

    The suit, filed earlier this month in 19th Judicial District Court, asks a judge to require Revenue Secretary Kimberly Robinson to turn over the data to the auditor’s office on the grounds that it is permissible under state law and does not violate privacy rights.

    Robinson, who has been battling Legislative Auditor Darryl Purpera’s office over this issue for months, has said her department does not have the legal authority to relinquish those records because doing so could violate the privacy rights of Medicaid recipients.

    She declines to comment on the suit because it is ongoing, and her attorneys have yet to respond to the suit in court. But she commented on the issue earlier this year, according to published reports.

    The controversy stems from an ongoing investigation by the state’s two-year-old Medicaid fraud task force into potential fraud, waste and abuse. As part of the investigation, the auditor is trying to cross-check income levels Medicaid enrollees reported on their 2017 state income tax returns with income levels reported on Medicaid applications for that year.

    An analysis from 2016 income tax returns indicated nearly 84,000 Medicaid enrollees could be making too much money to qualify for the government insurance. The task force is trying to conduct a similar analysis for 2017 but needs data that Robinson has said her department cannot legally release.

    An opinion by the State Attorney General issued earlier this year disagreed, concluding the LDR “is not legally prohibited from disclosing the statistical data requested by the task force,” according to the lawsuit.

    The auditor has said the purpose of the analysis is not to go after any potential alleged offenders individually but to try to quantify the scope of the problem.

    “The request does not ask LDR to do any verification or audit of the information nor to ask LDR to determine Medicaid eligibility,” the lawsuit says. “The request does not seek any personal identifying information but is a request for raw numbers only.”

    Robinson has previously said tax returns and Medicaid applications define income differently, according to published reports, noting that insurance applications set income levels based on how many dependents are in a household, but income tax returns have a far stricter definition for dependents that could change reported income levels.

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