2010-08-20 / Top Stories

DiNapoli Gets Tough On MTA, Medicaid Fraud

Outlines Campaign Goals In Wave Visit
By Howard Schwach

Thomas DiNapoli stopped by The Wave office this week. Thomas DiNapoli stopped by The Wave office this week. New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli is not bullish on politics in his state.

“We’re never going to be able to take politics out of the political process,” he told The Wave Editorial Board this week.

“At one time, good politics made for good government. Now, the bad politics we see in Albany makes for bad government and makes it hard on the people of the state.”

“We want the best people to compete for government seats,” he added. “But more and more good people who might want to run are backing out, saying, why would I want to do this.”

DiNapoli was at The Wave on a campaign swing in Rockaway that took him to both the eastern and western ends of the peninsula.

His message was the same at both.

“This is a tough time in the state’s history,” he said. “Our politicians were late with the budget, they got into a mess over the Aqueduct gambling proposal, money is tight, tax revenues are slipping badly. This is a tough time to be a New York State politician.”

Yet, DiNapoli wants another term and will face Republican Harry Wilson on November 2.

His election keyword is “Accountability.”

“I am the state’s bookkeeper,” he said. “I have to make sure that the state agencies are accountable for what they spend and make sure that our precious tax dollars are spent for the purpose they are allocated. We have to use those precious dollars where they will have the greatest impact on the greatest number of people.”

DiNapoli pointed to his recent audit of overtime in the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), an audit in which he found that lots of money was walking out the door in overtime expenses.

His audit made recommendations to the MTA, which is headed up by former Rockaway resident Jay Walder.

“I made the recommendations, but there is no obligation for Walder to follow those recommendations,” DiNapoli says with a smile. “To say that there is anything criminal in what we found would be too strong a statement. Let’s call some of what we found, ‘fraud.’ ”

DiNapoli also spoke of another of the state’s large expense areas – Medicaid.

“In my view, we have to provide Medicaid, the medical services that people need,” he said. “We do have some discretion, however, about the level of service we provide. New York State is already providing more services than most of the other states. We have to look at that.”

He added that some of that flexibility could come in the areas of diabetes testing supplies, serial admissions in hospitals and by better policing the system to stop the rampant fraud.

“We are looking for a computer system that would help us eliminate Medicaid fraud,” he said. “We have not been adequately policing the program up to now.

“The problem is that people see others being arrested for fraud and still want to do it because it is so lucrative,” he said. “They always seem to find a way around any control we put on the system.”

As for his main campaign platform, he wants to see changes that will make state government more open to the public, more transparent.

“We have to engage our citizens so that they want to get involved in the political system. We have to make the system more open. We have to let them know who’s running the state and how they are doing it.”

“Don’t lose total hope for the state government,” he said as he got ready to leave for another campaign stop. “Know that there are good people trying to make change so that our government will better serve the people of the state.”

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