Section 13A-9-150

Public assistance fraud; penalties.

(a) For the purposes of this section, public assistance means money or property provided directly or indirectly to eligible persons through programs of the federal government, the state, or any political subdivision thereof, including any program administered by a public housing authority.

(b) It shall be unlawful for an individual or business entity to knowingly do any of the following:

(1) Fail, by false statement, misrepresentation, impersonation, or other fraudulent means, to disclose a material fact used in making a determination as to the qualification of the person to receive public assistance.

(2) Fail to disclose a change in circumstances in order to obtain or continue to receive any public assistance to which he or she is not entitled or in an amount larger than that to which he or she is entitled.

(3) Aid and abet another person in the commission of the prohibitions enumerated in subdivisions (1) and (2).

(4) Use, transfer, acquire, traffic, alter, forge, possess, attempt to use, attempt to transfer, attempt to acquire, attempt to traffic, attempt to alter, attempt to forge, attempt to possess, or aid and abet another person in the use, transfer, acquisition, traffic, alteration, forgery, or possession of a food assistance identification card, an authorization, including, but not limited to, an electronic authorization, for the expenditure of food assistance benefits, a certificate of eligibility for medical services, or a Medicaid identification card in any manner not authorized by law, or to re-encode a magnetic strip on any card with information issued by any state or federal agency that grants monetary benefits that were not issued by that agency or that does not match the information on the front of the card.

(5) File, attempt to file, or aid and abet in the filing of a claim for services to, or on behalf of, a recipient of public assistance for services that were not rendered.

(6) File a false claim or a claim for nonauthorized items or services under any state or federally funded public assistance program.

(7) Bill the recipient of public assistance, or his or her family, for an amount in excess of that provided for by law or regulation.

(8) Fail to credit, return, or pay back to the state or its agents any payments received from Social Security, insurance, or other sources of funds paid or administered by any state agency that are in excess of the approved or listed amount or were received or approved based on fraud or fraudulent conduct.

(9) In any way receive, attempt to receive, or aid and abet in the receipt of unauthorized payments or other unauthorized public assistance or authorization or identification to obtain public assistance.

(10) Convert, charge, accept, or in any way take any funds administered by a public assistance program in excess of the listed price plus any applicable taxes.

(11) Receive payment that includes public assistance funds, in any form, for the purchase of items that are not authorized or are prohibited by state or federal law.

(c) In order to commit a violation of subsection (b), a hospital, as defined in Section 22-21-20, or an employee, agent, contractor, subcontractor, or independent contractor of a hospital, or a physician or a physician's employee, agent, contractor, subcontractor, or independent contractor must have specific intent to make a claim or obtain a payment for a health care item or service for which he or she has actual knowledge, as opposed to constructive knowledge, that he or she is not entitled to the claim or payment or that he or she has actual knowledge that his or her patient is not otherwise entitled to coverage under a public assistance program.

(d) It shall be unlawful for any person having duties in the administration of a public assistance program or in the distribution of public assistance or with authorization or identification to obtain public assistance to do any of the following:

(1) Fraudulently misappropriate, attempt to misappropriate, knowingly fail to disclose fraudulent activity, or aid and abet in the misappropriation of a food assistance, an authorization for food assistance, a food assistance identification card, a certificate of eligibility for prescribed medicine, a Medicaid identification card, or any other public assistance program with which he or she has been entrusted or of which he or she has gained possession by virtue of his or her position.

(2) Knowingly misappropriate, attempt to misappropriate, or aid and abet in the misappropriation of funds given in exchange for food assistance program benefits or for any form of food assistance benefits authorization.

(e)(1) In addition to any other penalty provided by law, an individual or business entity that violates this section in an aggregate value of two hundred dollars ($200) or more shall be guilty of a Class C felony.

(2) In addition to any other penalty provided by law, an individual or business entity that violates this section in an amount less than the aggregate value of two hundred dollars ($200) shall be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor.

(3) Three or more violations of this section shall establish a rebuttable presumption that the individual knowingly violated this section.

(f) The value of a food assistance authorization benefit shall be equal to the cash or exchange value unlawfully obtained by the fraudulent act committed in violation of this section.

(g) For the purposes of this section, public assistance fraud shall include the introduction of fraudulent records into a computer system, the unauthorized use of computer facilities, the intentional or deliberate alteration or destruction of computerized information or files, fraudulent billing or charging, and the stealing of financial instruments, data, and other assets.

(h) Repayment of public assistance benefits or services or return of authorization or identification wrongfully obtained is not a defense to, or ground for dismissal of, criminal charges brought under this section. However, in situations in which a hospital, as defined in Section 22-21-20, or an employee, agent, contractor, subcontractor, or independent contractor of a hospital, or a physician or his or her employee, agent, contractor, subcontractor, or independent contractor has overbilled or received an overpayment for a medical or health care service or improperly charted, coded, or billed for any medical or health care service, common practices, including but not limited to, repayment, even years later, may use as a defense to, or ground for dismissal of, a prosecution under this section.

(i) The introduction into evidence of a paid state warrant to the order of the defendant is prima facie evidence that the defendant did receive public assistance from the state.

(j) The introduction into evidence of a transaction history generated by a personal identification number (PIN) establishing a purchase or withdrawal by electronic benefit transfer is prima facie evidence that the identified recipient received public assistance from the state.

(k)(1) If an original record is admissible in any case or proceeding in a court in the state, a certified copy of the record in the custody of any federal or state agency relating to an investigation of public assistance fraud under this section shall be admissible when certified and affirmed by the custodian of the agency records as provided in subdivision (2), without further proof in any court in the state where admissible. The agency records must satisfy both of the following:

a. Were made and kept in the usual and regular course of business of the agency.

b. Were made at the time that the acts, transactions, occurrences, or events occurred or arose or within a reasonable time thereafter.

(2) The certificate of the custodian of a record under subdivision (1) shall name the parties to the case or proceeding and the name of the court to which made, by appropriate caption. The certificate shall be in the following form:

"I, ______________, hereby certify and affirm in writing that I am ______________ (title) of the _______________ (agency), a governmental agency, located at _______________, that I am custodian of the agency records of the agency and that the copy of the records within are an exact, full, true, and correct copy of the records pertaining to ________________. These records were made and kept in the usual and regular course of business of the listed agency and it was in the regular course of business of the listed agency to make and keep the records and that the records were made at the time that the acts, transactions, occurrences, or events that occurred or arose, or within a reasonable time thereafter. All of which I hereby certify and affirm on this ____ day of __________, ____"

(l) The Department of Human Resources, the Medicaid Agency, the Housing Finance Authority, and any other state agency that administers public assistance shall create an error-prone or fraud-prone case profile within its public assistance information system and shall screen each application for public assistance, including food assistance, Medicaid, temporary cash assistance, and public housing, against the profile to identify cases that have a potential for error or fraud. Each case identified as having a potential for error or fraud shall be subjected to preeligibility fraud screening. The Department of Human Resources may utilize the Income and Eligibility Verification System to comply with the criteria of this section to address fraud.

The Alabama Medicaid Agency may utilize the Federal Data Services Hub to comply with the criteria of this section.

(m)(1) Any person providing service for which compensation is paid under any state or federally funded public assistance program who solicits, requests, or receives, either actually or constructively, any payment or contribution through a payment, assessment, gift, devise, bequest, or other means, whether directly or indirectly, from a recipient of public assistance from a public assistance program, or from the family of the recipient, shall notify the Department of Human Resources, on a form provided by the department, of the amount of the payment or contribution and of any other information as specified by the department, within 10 days after the receipt of the payment or contribution, or if the payment or contribution is to become effective at some time in the future, within 10 days of the consummation of the agreement to make the payment or contribution. This subsection shall not apply to a hospital, as defined in Section 22-21-20, that treats Medicaid or Medicare patients, or a physician who treats Medicaid or Medicare patients.

For the purposes of this subsection, the term payment shall not include any copayment paid by a recipient of Medicaid to a medical provider.

(2) Failure to notify the Department of Human Resources within the prescribed time is a Class A misdemeanor.

(n)(1) All funds, proceeds, or property, whether real or personal, used or intended to be used in the commission of any violation of this section, obtained in any way by a violation of this section, or in any way derived from the proceeds of a violation of this section, are subject to forfeiture. This forfeiture provision shall not apply to payments received by a hospital, as defined in Section 22-21-20, for services provided to Medicaid recipients. A forfeiture proceeding shall be by means of an in rem civil action.

(2) Subsections (b) through (e), inclusive, and subsection (h) of Section 20-2-93, are applicable to forfeiture proceeding under this subsection, including all of the following portions of the proceeding:

a. How seizure of funds, proceeds, or property may be made.

b. The promptness of the proceeding.

c. Custody of funds, proceeds, and property.

d. Disposition of property after forfeiture.

e. How a bona fide lien holder's interests are treated.

(3) The standard of proof in a forfeiture proceeding under this subsection is reasonable satisfaction that the funds, proceeds, or property subject to forfeiture were used or intended to be used to violate this section or were obtained based on a violation of this section.

(o) Nothing in this section and Section 40-18-100 shall apply to Section 22-1-11.

(Act 2014-424, p. 1553, §§1, 3.)