Senate Investigates Consultant Seminars
The Senate Finance Committee yesterday listened to investigators from the General Accounting Office as they related how some medical business consultants are instructing doctors on how to overcharge the federal government and private insurers for services, ABC News.com reports (Valenti, ABC News.com, 6/27). GAO investigators said that the consultants were instructing physicians during seminars on how to overbill the government and private insurers for some services; not return overpayments they had received for others; and "ration" out appointment slots and other services for people enrolled in Medicaid or Medicare. "This behavior is unethical, it's illegal and it's intolerable," Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), the ranking Republican member of the committee, said at the hearing (Schmid, AP/Nando Times, 6/27). He added, "The federal government isn't anybody's cash cow. Every tax dollar spent on false billing is a dollar that doesn't help a truly sick patient." Grassley said that the GAO will refer "any evidence of illegal activity" by medical business consultants to the HHS inspector general (Grassley release, 6/27). The GAO report, however, did not estimate how widespread the practices are or how many physicians and hospitals are engaging in them. Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said that the hearing "was focusing on a few bad cases," adding that "the vast majority of health care consultants provide a useful service" (AP/Nando Times, 6/27). To listen to an audio excerpt of the Senate hearing, go to http://abcnews.go.com/sections/business/DailyNews/medfraud_010627.html and scroll down to the audio button.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.