Senators Criticize HHS for Failing To Recover Medicare Overpayments
A bipartisan group of Senate Finance Committee members on Thursday criticized HHS for failing to recoup millions of dollars in overpayments to Medicare, citing a new HHS Office of Inspector General report about the issue, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports.
The report found that Medicare has lost $70 million as a result of overpayments to durable medical equipment suppliers, most of which will go unrecovered, according to the lawmakers.
The group includes:
- Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.);
- Committee Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-Utah);
- Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.); and
- Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) (Baker, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 3/28).
DME suppliers since 2009 have been required to maintain at least $50,000 in surety bond coverage -- or money in reserves -- so that Medicare can recover overpayments, but the OIG report found that the agency recovered only $263,000 of the $50 million backed by surety bonds.
CMS also had inaccurate and incomplete bond data for many DME suppliers, according to the report. In addition, many of the overpayments often exceeded $50,000, the maximum that CMS can recoup from surety bonds (Senate Finance Committee release, 3/28).
In a statement, Hatch said, "It's unacceptable that lax oversight has allowed tens of millions of taxpayer dollars to fall by the wayside."
Baucus added, "At a time when we're scouring every nook and cranny of the federal budget for savings, we can't afford to let tens of millions of Medicare dollars go to waste without a serious effort to recover it."
The lawmakers noted that although the Affordable Care Act allows HHS to set higher minimums for surety bonds, the department also must make sure DME suppliers keep more money in their reserves so that they can repay improper payments ("Healthwatch," The Hill, 3/28).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.