Defense Department Fails To Collect $44 Million From Third-Party Insurers
The Department of Defense has failed to collect a minimum of $44 million annually from private health insurance firms for health care services provided to "military-related" patients, according to a General Accounting Office report set to be released this week, the AP/San Francisco Chronicle reports. Military personnel and their families are able to obtain health care at military facilities at no cost or a reduced cost, but the government is able to seek reimbursement for care provided to patients who have private health insurance. The AP/Chronicle reports that GAO investigators reviewed billing practices for the largest 35 of 132 military treatment facilities and found that between 2000 and 2002, DOD officials collected $122 million per year from private insurance companies, but the figure should have been "millions higher," according to the GAO. The report said that the department often does not bill third-party insurance companies because of incomplete or improperly collected information. The report said, "Managed effectively, DOD's Third Party Collections Program could collect tens of millions of dollars more each year to offset the cost of providing health care to DOD retirees and their dependents and active duty dependents." William Winkenwerder, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, said, "We had previously identified the issues outlined by the GAO and have aggressively implemented business process improvements." He added in his written response to the report that the funds collected from private insurance companies go to "supporting the maintenance and operation of the facilities," rather than their budgets (Rulon, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 3/5).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.