Shouldn't state get premium money back?

Letter to the editor

Posted: Monday, March 05, 2007

The Feb. 22 Juneau Empire article, "AK saves as dependents go missing," said the state's annual savings due to dependents who have disappeared will be $14.5 million, and there are no plans to recover this money. The $14.5 million appears to be savings from premiums that the state will no longer have to pay next year, but what about previous years? Isn't this fraud on the part of the active workers and retirees who claimed dependents who were not truly dependents?

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Shouldn't the state try to get the premium dollars back? I can understand why it wouldn't be easy to get the money paid for services by the insurance company because one cannot get blood from a turnip - and these people are turnips. Nevertheless, the premiums the insurance company charges for coverage are based on prior experience, and therefore, if these ineligible dependents received costly medical care, the premiums to the state would increase. This affects every employee who pays for coverage as the state passes some of the increase on to them. This is stealing from all of us.

The state should determine the amount due in premiums for each year the fake dependent was claimed and bill the employee or retiree for this amount. If the money is not paid timely, then permanent fund checks can be garnished and the amount turned over to a collection agency.

Even if only half the money was recovered, it becomes significant. If the Department of Law determined that claiming ineligible dependents is fraud, then shouldn't the employees making these claims be fired? These actions would send a message that fraud is not to be tolerated.

If there are no consequences for fraudulent behavior it will, unfortunately, just continue. In particular, it appears that retirees have been abusing the system - 2,100 dependents claimed that have disappeared. While many of these retirees do not pay for these benefits, the state does, and so do we.

I am sure there is an "open season" annually when insurance coverage can be changed and at this time employees and retirees should have to certify that the dependents they claim are valid.

Recently, both the governor and Legislature have been discussing ethics reform and honesty in government. Shouldn't state employees be held to behavior that is honest and ethical?

Angela Mitchell

Juneau



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