Blackfeet tribe of Montana declares emergency over Medicaid scam that lured members to Arizona


BROWNING, Mont. (AP) ­- A widespread Medicaid scam that left an unknown number of Native Americans homeless in metro Phoenix is being declared a public health state of emergency by the Blackfeet Nation of Montana after the Navajo Nation took similar action in June.

The scam left an unknown number of Native Americans without shelter in the greater Phoenix area after Arizona’s Medicaid program suspended scores of programs suspected of fraud. The declarations allow the tribes to get staffing and other resources to help people hurt by the scam.

Those affected are from numerous tribes around the West, including the Blackfeet Nation. They were lured to the Phoenix area with promises of addiction treatment that was never delivered, then pushed into the streets when the facilities abruptly closed.

The emergency declaration was drawn up last month on behalf of the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council, the tribe’s governing body. Because several council members were traveling, it took several weeks to round up the necessary signatures before the document became public.

The Arizona Health Care Cost Containment system, which manages Medicaid payments for the state, in June announced changes aimed at stopping stop payments to deceptive organizations that have billed for services never provided.

Payments have been cut off to more than 100 providers suspected of fraudulent billing.