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Gov. Katie Hobbs (D-AZ) and others say fake health care providers have defrauded the state out of hundreds of millions of dollars.
As Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports, the schemes allegedly target Native American communities.
Officials say for nearly three years more than 100 treatment centers in the Phoenix area have fraudulently billed Arizona’s Medicaid system for services they didn’t deliver.
The providers often lure Native Americans from reservations who’re experiencing homelessness or have mental health or substance abuse problems.
The would-be patients are frequently held against their will and rarely given the promised treatment.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI have been investigating.
Antoinette Ferrari is an FBI special agent.
“These individuals are targeting Native Americans because there’s a lower threshold in order to bill for behavioral health services. So, we’re just seeing a mismatch between what’s actually happening and what is supposed to happen.”
At a press conference, Gov. Hobbs called the situation a “humanitarian crisis” that’s believed to have contributed to the epidemic of missing Indigenous people.
She said the providers have been cut off from receiving payments and other systemic reforms will be put in place.
So far, 45 indictments have been handed down and about $75 million have been recovered.
A statewide hotline has been set up to report missing people.
Many victims are believed to be members of the Navajo Nation, and according to Attorney General Ethel Branch, the tribe will open a command center to assist victims and families.
After more than nine months of debate, the scope of an Alaska planning group will shrink to no longer include 3.5 million acres and an Alaska Native village within its boundaries.
Riley Board with KDLL in Kenai, AK reports.
On Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula, two communities on opposite sides of a major waterway have been in conflict for months over the scope of a land planning group based out of the east side community of Nikiski.
The planning group was established last September following advocacy from residents who wanted a say in local planning decisions.
The original boundaries encompassed Nikiski, surrounding land on the east side of Cook Inlet, and millions of acres on the west side — within them, the Native Village of Tyonek.
Representatives from Nikiski argued the two areas, though geographically separated, were one community.
But westside residents rejected the description of the westside as a part of the Nikiski community, and said the decision to form the planning group was made without their consent.
In December, local officials introduced an ordinance to reduce the size of the planning area’s boundaries.
This week, the borough’s governing body, the borough assembly, finally voted to reduce the area to just the east side of the inlet, following several proposed amendments and a lengthy postponement.
Assembly President Brent Johnson said it was important to honor the input from the west side, which included dozens of letters from Tyonek residents and peninsula Native corporations.
“I’m looking at the strong feelings of the folks that live on the other side of the inlet in the Tyonek area.
They have strong feelings, and they don’t want to have an APC that’s on the east side telling people on the west side what to do.”
The group’s new boundaries include about 300 thousand acres, which still makes it the largest of its kind in the borough.
First Lady Jill Biden traveled to Bethel, AK Wednesday.
She highlighted the administration’s work to improve broadband in the Y-K Delta, which Biden says will help with health care, education, and jobs.
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola (Yup’ik/D-AK) joined the first lady on the visit.
This was the first-ever visit by a first lady to Bethel.
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