MEDICARE FRAUD: Improper Payments Up $1B in 1999
After two years of "dramatic declines," improper payments by Medicare soared by nearly $1 billion in 1999 to total $13.6 billion, a report by the HHS Inspector General reveals. Yet as the total for fraudulent payments rises, the number of individuals and businesses banned from receiving Medicare payments last year -- 2,976 -- remained "about the same" as in the previous two years. According to the annual report, about $1 in every $13 Medicare pays out to doctors and hospitals goes toward a false claim. However, the inspector general's office spends only $1 investigating fraud for every $1,000 in Medicare payments. Spokeperson Alwyn Cassil said that within two years, investigation and prosecution of criminal and civil cases should push the number of people and businesses banned from the system up to about 4,000 annually. She added that the inspector general's office does not plan to ask Congress for more funding, noting, "We have significant new dollars coming into this agency and they are being deployed very strongly on criminal and civil prosecutions and working with our law enforcement partners" (Wheeler, Gannett News Service/Salt Lake Tribune, 5/14).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.