The primary care physician leading the
"personhood" ballot measure campaign in Montana is under multiple
investigations for Medicaid fraud.
In a one-sided news story
published in the Daily Inter Lake, Dr.
Ann Bukacek confirmed that state and federal investigators launched the probe
after allegations were raised about the Kalispell, Mont., doctor’s billing
practices and related complaints that she submitted Medicaid reimbursements for
time spent praying with patients.
Bukacek told the newspaper that fraud investigators asked "How much time we spend on it, how
we decide how to pray, how we pray with non-Christians."
She blames a disgruntled former employee for the most recent
investigation which marks a string of four earlier inquiries that began in
April over other unspecified complaints about billing issues. State and federal
authorities declined to comment or even verify the existence of the probes.
Bukacek is no stranger to controversy — the seriousness of
the current charges aside.
She is president of the Montana ProLife Coalition which is
again fronting the state’s "personhood" amendment to codify
constitutional rights for fertilized eggs. Their first attempt in 2008 failed
to qualify enough petition signatures to make the ballot. The group has also
agitated for conservatively-allied state lawmakers to sponsor
"personhood" amendments and repeal privacy clauses related to
abortion care. Though the measures passed the state Senate they were ultimately
defeated in the House.
Bukacek also claims to be on the steering committee of the
anti-health reform astroturf group, Coalition to
Protect Patient Rights, that is managed by the Washington, D.C.,
lobbyist firm the DCI Group, best known for its pro-tobacco smokers’ rights
Though her leadership in CPPR could not be confirmed by
independent sources, Bukacek’s husband Roland Horst
appeared in a video for the fake grassroots organization. Horst was
billed as a "medical billing specialist and massage therapist."
Bukacek’s well-established conservative religious beliefs
and opposition to federal health care reform, which she derides as
"Obamacare," are regularly splashed in newspaper guest editorials and
a seemingly endless stream of letters to the editor.
Planted in the Nov. 8 Daily
Inter Lake story are unsubstantiated allegations by unnamed anti-choice
advocates that Bukacek is being targeted because she is an outspoken advocate
for right wing political views.
However, a less sinister reason may come from another Daily Inter Lake sop story printed March 2 that notes a previous
professional dispute over her inappropriate conduct with patients:
Bukacek spent five years at Kalispell
Diagnostic Service but was told she’d have to stop praying with patients or
leave the physician group. She wouldn’t compromise her faith, so she broke away
and began her own practice.
From a practical standpoint, many cash-strapped states are
redoubling their efforts to sniff out Medicaid fraud. Unlike Medicare, the
federal health care entitlement program that covers people over the age of 65
and those with certain disabilities, Medicaid is a joint state-federal funded
program for low-income people.
The Montana Medicaid fraud unit
has recovered $7.8 million since 1993 from convictions for improper
billing, false claims and illegal kickbacks paid to physicians by medical
device and pharmaceutical companies.
If Bukacek is charged and eventually convicted of Medicaid
fraud, she could face up to 10 years in state
prison and a fine not to exceed $50,000.
Ironically, an amendment to the
Senate health care reform bill under debate this week aims to
strengthen Medicaid and Medicare fraud enforcement. The very bill Bukacek
dismisses as unnecessary government interference.