Medicaid Fraud at NY Nonprofit For Developmentally Disabled


Like a lot of families with autistic and disabled children, I’ve been wondering — worrying — about what the projected cuts to the Medicaid and Medicare will mean for individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities. My son Charlie is 14 and he’ll soon be an adult, aging out of school services, and in need of housing in a group home or other community setting in a few years. A New York Times investigation into Medicaid fraud at Young Adult Institute Network (YAI), a nonprofit organization that runs group homes and provides services for individuals with developmental and physical disabilities, reveals some deeply disturbing practices including huge salaries (nearly a half-million dollars) for the two top executives, Philip and Joel Levy, and college tuition payments for employees’ children. Philip Levy charged YAI $50,400 one year so his daughter could live in Greenwich Village while attending graduate school at New York University.

Four YAI executives received compensation in excess of $500,000 in 2009, far more than any other similar New York organization. Joel Levy actually collected $1 million and Philip, $916,647. Some other examples of YAI’s inflated costs:

The Young Adult Institute won more than $1 million in Medicaid appeals over the past seven years for a single group home — a residence on East 35th Street — one of the most expensive homes of its kind in the state. For care of the 28 developmentally disabled people housed there, whose needs are among the most acute in the nonprofit system, the organization received $7.2 million in 2010, or $700 per person per night.

Over all, the organization’s rates for group homes at the intermediate care level, which require higher levels of care and supervision, rose by 48 percent from 2004 to 2010. Rates for similar group homes run by nonprofit providers around the state increased by 37 percent during the same period, while inflation was 15 percent.

Two days after the New York Times asked Philip Levy about using Medicaid funds to pay for his daughter’s apartment, he “abruptly retired as chief executive.” Joel Levy also retired last month, “after serving as a $250,000-a-year part-time consultant following his departure from the chief executive’s position in 2009.”

A parent interviewed at the end of the NYT article says that YAI excels at “hiring caring people, investing in training and supervising programs” for her 30-year-old son, Mark, a resident of a YAI group home for four years. Of course staff at agencies providing services like 24/7 care for individuals with developmental disabilities need to be adequately compensated and high-quality services do cost a lot. My husband and I aren’t the only parents of a child with disabilities who joke (lovingly — we’re always glad to pay for Charlie’s needs) that we’ve spent the equivalent of four years of college tuition on years of behavior, speech and other therapies; lawyer’s fees (when we had some “difficulties” with various school districts); medical professionals like a dentist who specializes in special needs care; wear and tear on our car and house. But what a slap in the face to hear that staff at agencies like YAI are using Medicaid dollars to finance college for their own children. While more autistic children are going to college, Charlie is not — college tuition is not what Medicaid is for.

The Levy brothers started their careers as social workers from Flatbush, Brooklyn. According to the New York Times‘ investigation, they may have started seeking to help individuals with disabilities. But they’ve taken advantage of a 1970s New York court order that called for thousands of people to be moved into community homes following Geraldo Rivera’s 1972 exposé of the inhumane conditions at Willowbrook State School on Staten Island. It sounds as if residents of YAI group homes do receive far better care, but, if all the Medicaid dollars actually went to them, they might well  receive even better care, and more people with disabilities could benefit, too — and maybe there would be less clamor about needing to cut Medicaid.

Photo by stevendepolo


Mary L.
Mary L6 years ago

Grace A: Medicare and Medicaid are two different programs! Which one are you on?

There continues to be fraud - mostly perpetrated by providers - in these government programs. Fraud is also committed in private programs - particularly ones that have a "foundation" or "non-profit" arm.

Prosecution is the answer to all fraud. At least government fraud has more watchdogs and is is easier to prove.

Janice S.
Janice S6 years ago

GOD BLESS YOU ELLEN and all those who are working hard usually for very little pay to do worthy things.

I hope everyone does distinquish between the theives and all the legitimate employees in this case and many other as well.

Janice S.
Janice S6 years ago

There should be close monitoring of nonprofits as well as government agencies. There are many people doing wonderful, needed, quality work to help others.

It is such a shame when crooked individuals take advantage of the people who are trying to do good and of those needing the assistance provided. Stealing is of course always wrong -- but stealing from people in need or agencies dedicated to human service is doubly wrong!! Many people are hesitant to donate to charity for that very reason.

Janice S.
Janice S6 years ago

This is sickening! They should be in prison and all their assets conficsted!

Grace Adams
Grace Adams6 years ago

I find the Medicare notices of medical expenses unintelligible. So how can I complain.

Brenda P.
Brenda P6 years ago

This is happening in every states!!

Jayne Braby Bethard

This article reminds me of the militants in Somalia preventing aid from reaching their fellow country persons. It's humans working against the common good! Thanks for unveiling 'their' greed.

Jon Hoy
Jonjon Hoy6 years ago

Bravo....! Wonder comments and I fully agree with everyone. It's not only in New York. It's in every single state of the nation. In small citys as well as large major citys.

C. T.
C. Tarling6 years ago

The Culture of Death prevails over many, many vulnerable people especially children.
Prayer and reparation are desperately needed and the courage to do what is right ! C.T.

Dana W.
Dana W6 years ago

It makes me ill to think of the wasted money and the people who couldn't get the help and services they need because of some greedy individuals. Sadly I'm sure there are many similar frauds out there.

Wish there was a way to deport these greedy crooks to a desert island somewhere because they probably won't serve much jail time and will certainly never pay back the funds they stole.