In his effort to fill the state's massive $26.3 billion budget deficit, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is targeting social service programs he says are rife with fraud and abuse.
But the governor is unable to substantiate a centerpiece claim that fraud wastes as much as a quarter of the In-Home Supportive Services program, which provides home health care workers for low-income elderly and disabled.
"I've never had anyone tell me where that number comes from," said Virginia Bella, who specializes in studying the IHSS program for the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office.
The program is the state's fastest-growing social program. The state now pays about $2 billion a year of the $5.5 billion cost of the program. Federal and county funds make up the rest. The program's intent, ultimately, is to save money by allowing recipients to stay home with the aid of caregivers so they do not have to enter more costly nursing homes.
Grand juries in six counties have issued reports criticizing existing anti-fraud procedures and suggesting more safeguards, some of which the governor is recommending.
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