By MATT DELLINGER
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia’s Attorney General Patrick Morrisey was sworn into office on Monday after winning re-election in November.
“This is a terrific and historic day for West Virginia,” Morrisey said. “We’re excited to roll up our sleeves and begin this second term.”
Morrisey is the first attorney general from the Eastern Panhandle.
“We’re going to continue our very aggressive agenda to stick up for the residents of our state, including the Eastern Panhandle,” Morrisey said. “I’m from Jefferson County. I come home on a frequent basis to stick up for issues important to residents in that area.”
The year begins with two important goals, Morrisey said.
“We want to fight fraud, waste and abuse and use this office to crack down on wasteful practices,” Morrisey said. “Some of that resulted in the saving of $1.2 million from our disability fraud unit, in just six months.”
Fighting disability fraud can help the state, according to Morrisey. He also said he wants to continue to fight drug abuse aggressively.
“It allows money to be spent on those who need it most,” Morrisey said. “We’ve always made fighting drug abuse a top priority.”
Morrisey said he wants to expand tactics that have already worked.
“We’ve been talking about that problem holistically, from supply, demand and educational perspectives,” Morrisey said. “One of the opportunities we have with the new government is to work together and collaborate more with the executive branch. We think the state’s efforts can be streamlined and coordinated better. I’m excited to work with everyone in state government to eliminate these senseless deaths in our state.”
The attorney general’s office has had success with these goals, Morrisey said.
“This is the top priority,” Morrisey said. “Last week we announced a $36 million settlement – the prescription settlement largest in the state’s history – we’re going to continue doing our work in terms of enforcement and education, and lend our support to take on this terrible epidemic.”
Morrisey said he wants to use his office to spur economic growth.
“The other major area of course – and the attorney general can play a major important role – is to help remove the impediments to economic growth,”Morrisey said. “For example, late last year we were able to help resolve a major issue for the Eastern Panhandle – when we secured water rights of the Eastern Panhandle from Maryland. We want to ensure the right kind of regime is in place to kickstart job growth and protect this precious resource for a very long time.”
It’s important to protect the state’s environment, Morrisey said.
“It always means we’re going to make sure water is available for future generations,” Morrisey said. “We can use it the right way, and we’re excited for the win, as it’ll help the economy and make sure we’re good stewards for the environment.”
Morrisey stressed the amount of savings the state can make by tackling the wasting of taxpayer money.
“One other big issue we’re focusing on is tackling Medicaid fraud,” Morrisey said. “The state can do much better in terms of recovering over-payments and abuse in that program.”
According to Morrisey, the current program has a lot of waste.
“It’s a $4 billion program and I’m convinced we can play a central role in combating fraud,” Morrisey said. “If we can play that central role, then we can save a significant amount of money, save that money to be spent on the most vulnerable and also to keep the tax burden low. We just have to get much more serious about waste and my office has a proven track record in going after fraud and combating it.”
Even if tackling waste produces several percent in savings, it’ll make a difference, according to Morrisey.
“We can say, at minimum, a 6 percent error rate,” Morrisey said. “That’d be $240 million. Let’s assume we can save one or two percent, that’s $80 million. Who wants to save $80 million? This is an area we can do better. We asking for the opportunity to get up to the plate and take a shot at tackling medicaid fraud.”
Morrisey also added that he has hope for the newly elected Gov. Jim Justice.
“I want him to be a successful governor,” Morrisey said. “If the governor succeeds, and we’re able to restore jobs and become stronger economically, then the state wins. If he has a good idea, then i want to work with him to advance it.”
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