New report reveals abuse of Medicare

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Politicians of all stripes like to talk endlessly about "waste, fraud and abuse" primarily because it's a popular theme with voters.

Granted, the Democrats tend to focus on corporate abuse while the Republicans turn their eyes toward welfare abuse.

But in the end, regardless of the wasted taxpayer dollars, a pledge to end "waste, fraud and abuse" is a sure-fire successful message from those seeking office.

One recently retired Senator even published a government book each year citing the most egregious examples of government waste.

Entitlement programs - because of their massive size - are always popular in the abuse category. And judging from the numbers, there's ample reason to focus on those costly entitlement dollars.

A new report on Medicare and Medicaid abuse out this week illustrates the popularity of the abuse and fraud issue.

According to the report, taxpayers overpaid the Medicare program by a whopping $60 billion in 2013, the most recently audited annual report.

That alone is cause for grave concern. But when you consider that only 2 percent of all Medicare billing is audited, you get a sense of the potential for wasting taxpayer dollars.

To make the matter even worse, Missouri reported the largest increase in Medicare billing errors in the nation. And our small state ranks fourth in the nation, right behind California, New York and Florida.

In the most recent report, Missouri had an estimated $170 million in Medicare overbilling and remember, that's with just 2 percent of the bills audited.

Hospital and other health care providers are asking for less oversight on the Medicare billing program because of the onerous burden that comes with government paperwork.

But given the size of the overbilling problem, it's easy to argue that more oversight is actually required.

Unless something drastic happens, projections show that the Medicare funding program will run out of money in the next 15 years.

I think we can be assured that the federal government will alter the program before that doomsday occurs. But the solution may well be an increased age for entry into the Medicare program or higher payroll fees to cover the shortfall.

Given the size of the reported abuse, perhaps one solution would be an increase in the monitoring of the program to weed out some of the billions in overpayments before any additional intervention is required.

Most of this improper billing that siphons your tax dollars is unintentional. When you have a program as large as Medicare and Medicaid, mistakes are inevitable.

But $60 billion in overbilling in one year is a problem in search of a solution.

As a nation we have focused on the advent of Obamacare with all of its problems. That massive federal overreach into the health care industry was falsely presented as increasing access and reducing cost.

What our focus should be is a way to address the hundreds of billions of dollars falsely paid on Medicare and Medicaid billing claims.

Like a great deal of federal programs on defense and education and others, a massive centralized government is almost always the most inefficient delivery system imaginable.

Give me a politician who will come up with solutions and that candidate has my vote.

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