MEDICARE FRAUD: Time for a Change in Oversight
In light of last week's news that Medicare contracting companies have bilked the program of millions of dollars, some are calling for Medicare officials to revamp the program's oversight system. Writing an op-ed in Saturday's Washington Times, Dan Thomasson argues that although the Clinton administration has made an effort to "cleanup" Medicare and Medicaid fraud, "there is no real sign it has made much of a dent." Thomasson criticizes the government's failure to protect the two programs, which he says "were ready made for the unprincipled, the charlatans, and the greedy, a huge number of whom supposedly were dedicated to providing health services to millions of elderly and poor Americans." The mistake, he says, was "not to anticipate that anything as large as these programs were expected to be would not need an entire apparatus designed to protect them from the unscrupulous." Pointing to more than $30 billion, or 10% of both programs' annual cost, that is wasted or stolen each year, Thomasson suggests that "perhaps it is time to rethink the way these plans are administered and to establish the means to finally rein in the cheaters and end the abuse." He concludes that "the expense would be tiny compared to the savings" (9/25).
The 'Lowest of the Low'
Declaring "the people who cheat Medicare ... the lowest of the low in the underworld of white-collar crime," a Wichita Eagle editorial commends the Clinton administration for "turn[ing] up the heat on Medicare fraud in recent years." Although "lax oversight by Medicare officials" suggests there is room for improvement, the editorial says that the guilty parties "seem to be trying to clean up their acts." The editorial concludes that because Medicare is "facing an imminent financial crisis ... minimizing fraud is key to [its] survival" (Wichita Eagle, 9/24).