Question: Why did Andrew Cuomo get rid of James Sheehan?
Cuomo is the Governor of New York.
James Sheehan is one of the nation’s top fraud busters.
For the last two years, Sheehan was the Inspector General for New York’s Medicaid program. As such, Sheehan was arguably the top health care fraud cop in New York State ? and probably one of the top cops in the nation.
As IG, he oversaw an office with more than 600 employees and a budget of over $100 million.
And he brought home the bacon ? he recovered hundreds of millions of dollars from fraudsters over his three years in office.
In 2008, his first full year in office, Sheehan recovered over $550 million from Medicaid fraud, double the goal set for the state, and more than all other states recovered in 2007.
“Jim Sheehan is former prosecutor, and he saw his job as ferreting out fraud,” Patrick Burns of Taxpayers Against Fraud told Corporate Crime Reporter. “He’s a rat catcher, hired at a time when there was no question that New York’s health care system was riddled with rats. Jim did an extraordinarily good job of recovering New York’s stolen money. He was a good soldier, and a real warrior against fraud. He saved the people of New York, and the nation, vast sums of money.”
And so, why would Cuomo get rid of such a person?
Burns says that the Governor brought in a new person ? James Helgerson ? to head NY’s Medicaid program.
And Cuomo replaced Sheehan with James C. Cox ? a former Helgerson associate.
“Helgerson has a slightly different background,” Burns said. “He’s trying to manage down New York’s overall Medicaid spending ? the goal set out for him by Governor Cuomo. He’s approaching health care providers with an outstretched hand which is always good politics.”
“But will that alone will do the job? Probably not. The health care industry is addicted to corrupt practices, and I suspect that they see Jim Sheehan’s departure as a victory, and an outstretched hand as a sign of weakness to be exploited. The health care industry may be wrong on that count, but we shall see. One thing is certain ? New York now has the strongest False Claims Act law in the country, and there is no excuse for not continuing to recover vast sums of stolen money.”
Burns says that the hospital and pharmaceutical industry complained that Sheehan was “too aggressive.”
“Helgerson’s point of view is we are going to save money, but we are going to do it without making enemies in the health care industry,” Burns said.
“If you are trying to recover as much money as Jim Sheehan recovered, I’m not sure it can be done this way,” Burns said.
“The core issue is that new Medicaid director ? Jason Helgerson ? has signaled that he doesn’t want to make enemies within the health care arena on the provider side,” Burns said.
“Jim Sheehan was more concerned about recovering the stolen money than whether he made enemies or not.”
“An enforcement officer has to have two hands,” Burns said.
“One hand that is always open and ready to shake people’s hands, and ask ? how can we move forward together? The other hand has to be ready to deliver a right cross.”
“Does NY still have a right cross?” Burns asked. “We’ll have to wait and see.”
Russell Mokhiber edits the Corporate Crime Reporter.