Computer crash hinders Texas Attorney General’s Medicaid fraud case.
Thursday, October 23, 2008.
Read entire expose here:
AUSTIN – A massive computer crash that destroyed hundreds of the state attorney general’s confidential documents may prevent scores of Medicaid fraud prosecutions and has revealed serious problems with a newly expanded state outsourcing of computer services.
As much as 50 percent of the Tyler Medicaid fraud division’s files were destroyed in July when a server being repaired by a state vendor wouldn’t restart. The scope of the damage is in dispute.
In an apparent oversight, the documents lost were not backed up – meaning that evidence crucial to convicting dishonest health-care providers who ripped off the state’s health insurance program for the poor may never be recovered. E-mails and other records obtained by The Dallas Morning News indicate some Tyler investigators lost up to 90 percent of their open case files.
“In spite of earlier assurances, the destruction of critical data has, in fact, occurred,” First Assistant Attorney General Kent Sullivan wrote Monday in an e-mail to Brian Rawson, chief of the Department of Information Resources. Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office “cannot afford to risk a reoccurrence of this event.”
In all, 81 criminal cases and eight months of work in the attorney general’s 13-person Tyler Medicaid fraud office were completely lost, according to an attorney general’s report on the security breach – records that are being painstakingly recovered by the vendor.
IBM, which leads a vendor group selected by the information resources department in the $863 million, seven-year outsourcing deal, said it still is investigating the matter.
“We do take this incident seriously, and we’re taking appropriate steps to ensure that it doesn’t occur again,” company spokesman Jeff Tieszen said.
Mr. Tieszen said IBM-hired data recovery specialists have reassembled 24 of 27 lost gigabytes of information – 88 percent of the lost data.
State officials said that they couldn’t confirm that figure and that their latest estimates remain at 50 percent.
The Medicaid fraud data loss is the worst problem to surface in the first 18 months of the state’s deal with the IBM-led group – and further blemishes a privatization push throughout state government that grew rapidly after Republicans gained control of the Legislature six years ago.
In April 2007, Mr. Abbott’s office was forced to switch to the outsourced system. It gave “Team for Texas,” the vendor group, lead responsibility for the attorney general’s information technology system, including its servers and backup tapes.
The change was supposed to provide better service and save money. But early this year, the attorney general’s office and the IBM-led group had a series of communications breakdowns over whether data was actually being backed up.
In a May e-mail, Sean Peterson, Mr. Abbott’s director of network operations, appeared to have a premonition, raising doubts about whether remote office servers were being properly maintained. He also asked for a list of all the backups that had failed in the last three weeks.
“I am concerned that these are not being backed up properly,” he wrote.