Medicare Cuts Waste, Fraud Losses in Half to $11.9B
HHS' Office of Inspector General reported yesterday that Medicare cut losses resulting from waste, fraud and mistakes" last year to $11.9 billion, down about 50% from the 1996 total, the AP/Nando Times reports. According to OIG, improper payments in 2000 represented seven cents of every dollar that Medicare paid to providers, down from 14 cents in 1996, when Medicare spent $23.2 billion on improper payments. OIG also reported that Medicare paid $5.1 billion last year for services not considered "medically necessary" -- the "most common" problem found.
Acting HHS Inspector General Michael Mangano said that HCFA's efforts in recent years to educate providers about filing proper Medicare claims "have made a significant impact" (McQueen, AP/Nando Times, 3/6). Michael McMullan, acting HCFA deputy administrator, added, "We must all continue to work together to ensure that beneficiaries and taxpayers get their money's worth under the Medicare program" (HCFA release, 3/6). While HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson said that the rate of improper payments showed "significant improvement" in recent years, he added that "more must be done" (Wall Street Journal, 3/7). He also promised to take a "closer look" at Medicare's record keeping and computer systems (AP/Nando Times, 3/6). "We still have important work ahead of us, and I am committed to ensuring that the department invests in the technology and systems needed to make these improvements," he said (HHS release, 3/6). Lawmakers plan to ask OIG to investigate further improper Medicare payments for services provided to prison inmates, patients who "turned out to be dead" and deported patients. "Every dollar wasted is a dollar that doesn't help a patient," Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said, adding, "We could pay for a lot of prescription drugs for older Americans with $11.9 billion" (AP/Nando Times, 3/6).