Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper on Monday discussed his office's efforts to prevent immigrant healthcare fraud through TennCare and MedicAid at a meeting of the Pachyderm Club at the Chattanooga Choo Choo.
He said there are emergency instances when medical care cannot legally be refused, but in cases that do not fall under the federal ¡§have-to¡¦s,¡¨ Tennessee does have appropriate checks and balances in place to comply with federal regulations on the matter.
Healthcare fraud is one of Attorney General Cooper¡¦s top interests since his appointment to office in November 2006. He said that since healthcare reforms put into place by Gov. Phil Bredesen in 2005, Tennessee healthcare expenses have dropped by $1.6 billion.
The Chattanooga native said that because the federal government imposes fines on employers who hire illegal immigrants, Tennessee may not impose fines. But he said the state recently passed legislation to retract an employer¡¦s state business license if he hires illegal immigrants.
Other questions were raised about what is being done to protect U.S. citizens' children¡¦s Social Security numbers from being stolen by illegal immigrants and to ensure that health codes are being promoted in other languages.
Harold Coker asked Attorney General Cooper if he believed his office is ¡§sufficiently independent¡¨ to cooperate with state legislature investigations such as the Tennessee Waltz scandal. Attorney General Cooper said the office he holds is appointed by Tennessee¡¦s Supreme Court, the only state to appoint its attorney general, and that the bipartisan appointment assures the public that his office is free of political debts or obligations that might plague an elected office.
¡§Even though I live in Nashville, Chattanooga will always be my home,¡¨ Attorney General Cooper said. ¡§I marvel at the progress and change¡Kit¡¦s a testament to the leadership, public and private.¡¨
Attorney General Cooper outlined two other focus issues for Tennessee¡¦s near future:
He said Chattanoogans cannot grow up in this city without appreciating the area¡¦s distinctive outdoors. He said Walter Cronkite¡¦s announcement that Chattanooga was the dirtiest city in America came when he was just 12 years old, but that Chattanooga has turned around to become a model ¡§green city.¡¨ He said it is a priority to protect what he called Chattanooga¡¦s ¡§priceless resources.¡¨
Attorney General Cooper used the interstate TJX company, whose computers were recently hacked of customer information, as an example of his office¡¦s recent efforts to curb identity theft. He said Tennessee is at the forefront of a multi-state investigation to prevent such criminality from occurring again.
He said plans to promote the 30-year-old Tennessee Consumer Protection Act through events and other publicizing are in the works to educate the public about rights and precautions. He said Tennessee has recovered $9 million for consumers who were deceived by fraudulent companies.