Medicaid benefit question marks state Senate race in Cumberland

Posted October 10, 2014 5:25 p.m. EDT
Updated October 13, 2014 1:08 p.m. EDT

— An accusation of potential Medicaid insurance fraud against Republican state Sen. Wesley Meredith dates back nearly 20 years, but documents dropped by his Democratic opponent, Billy Richardson, have stirred up what was a quiet election campaign in Cumberland County.

The documents include Medicaid ID cards from 1996 naming Meredith's son and his then-wife, Elizabeth, as recipients. One hospital record obtained by WRAL News shows Medicaid covered the birth.

There is no signature, but it lists Wesley Meredith as the guarantor. At the time, tax records show Meredith, a landscaper, was making around $100,000 a year.

“Together, these documents raise compelling and troubling questions about my opponent's integrity, judgment and fitness for public office,” Richardson said last week. “Indeed, they point to the possibility that he may have committed one or more crimes.”

Elizabeth Meredith released a statement to WRAL News through her an attorney, saying she and her then-husband went to the Department of Social Services together and applied for Medicaid. She said she was a stay-at-home mom during the late 1990s and had no source of income.

“He did not keep me informed about the financial decision he made for our family,” she said about her ex-husband. “I have cooperated and will continue to cooperate with any investigation. I am and have been a single parent for 18 years. I just want to raise my children and do not want to be the focal point of any political campaign.”

Wesley Meredith said his marriage was in shambles at the time and blasted his opponent for attacking him.

“The Department of Social Services has examined all the evidence and quickly closed this case. End of story,” he said in a statement Friday. “This always was and continues to be a desperate attempt by my opponent to generate headlines in a race he’s losing by a wide margin – and he’s doing it by dragging my former wife and 18-year-old son into a despicable political attack. That kind of personal destruction is appalling to me, and I think the voters of Senate District 19 will reject these gutter politics.”

Yet when pressed, Meredith didn’t deny involvement in getting his family on Medicaid.

"I don't recall," he said. He also wouldn’t comment on whether a settlement was reached with DSS.

Republican political consultant Carter Wrenn joined others urging Meredith to come clean.

“It's a serious charge, and he needs to say it's true, it's not true or it was perfectly all right,” Wrenn said. “Avoiding the charge doesn’t really work.”