The Obama Administration Puts Its Historic Commitment to Fighting Medicare Fraud on Hold


The Obama administration and its allies like to brag about how the executive branch is cracking down on fraud and abuse in Medicare and Medicaid, which many believe costs the federal government in the range of $60 billion each year. (Reliable fraud totals are hard to come by, but most experts agree that it's a very expensive problem, and official estimates indicate that the program made at least $48 billion in "improper payments" last year, including fraud.), a project of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS), touts President Obama's "historic support for anti-fraud efforts" under a headline noting that fraud-fighting efforts are a "top priority" for the administration. John McDonough, a former Mitt Romney advisor who consulted with the administration on ObamaCare, points to a record number of prosecutions in fraud cases and argues that ObamaCare gives the government tools to "re-engineer the system" to help stop fraudsters, an argument that the Obama administration has used as well.

As I pointed out in my October print-edition feature, "Medicare Thieves," fraud in government health programs has been a significant, well-known problem for years. According to the Cato Institute's health policy director, Michael Cannon, the Government Accountability Office has issued 159 reports on fraud since 1986. So why has it taken until now to tackle the problem?

In part it's because the system is designed to work in such a way that makes fraud easy: Doctors, who are well-liked and carry significant political influence, don't want a system that forces them to deal with much anti-fraud bureaucracy, especially given that Medicare's payment rates are already low compared to private insurers. And Medicare patients tend to be wary of any reforms that might upset doctors and drive them from the system.

Which helps explain why Modern Healthcare is reporting that CMS has put two of its vaunted new fraud-fighting programs on indefinite hold after opposition from doctors and other health providers. A historic commitment to a policy priority apparently doesn't stand up to a thumbs down from the health providers who make big parts of their living off the program.  

For much more on Medicare fraud, read "Medicare Thieves." 

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  1. Did anyone really believe they’d follow through with reform? That is too valuable of a constituency to be messing with.

    1. Both sides cave in every year on the doc fix.

      As discussed here before,the IPBB (?) was the only way to really reform the system – via the “death to scooters and penis pump” panel.

      1. I didn’t mean the doctors, I meant the fraudsters.

      2. If every doctor started practicing medicine the way Ron Paul did, we wouldn’t need the doc fix.

        Unlike profiteering doctors who put money over patients, Ron Paul let any patient on Medicare or Medicaid come in. But he treated them free of charge, as a proper, charitable person does.

        1. Off topic: I saw a squirrel today!

        2. That won’t work so well for fields like nephrology where many/most patients are on Medicare. Remember, if you’re over 65, you’re in Medicare, even if you’re a multibillionaire.

  2. What do you call a person who flunks out of law school? A doctor.

    And don’t get me started on the blacks and the Jews.

    1. You are an anti-dentite too.

  3. I’m starting to think that allowing people to profit through fraud is part of someone’s mad idea of an ideal society. It’s becoming so prevalent than it’s hard not to wonder cui bono?

    1. I would guess Acorn gets half of it’s bank from medicare and medicaid fraud.

      1. If true, that would explain why.

  4. Aren’t we overdue for a Ron Paul thread?

    1. If you haven’t already, please go to Drudge Report and vote for Ron Paul in their online poll.

      Thank you.

      1. Not even a link? I can’t be bothered.

        1. I tried giving a URL and was blocked. but the URL is simple. Scruch the two words together and add dot com to the end. The poll is at the top.

      2. Ron Paul has gotten too mainstream. I voted for Huntsman, a guy I’m certain won’t win.

        1. See, this is why they’ll round up the libertarians first when they who take over take over.

          1. Sometimes they just politely tell you to leave the country, but you are guaranteed to be first to be asked.

      3. It seems like they may be letting people vote multiple times. I voted for Ron Paul, then went back a few minutes later to see how his vote count was going, and it presented me with the opportunity to vote again (so I did). I don’t know if it’s actually counting the multiple votes, however. Not that internet polls are scientific at all, but if it allowed only one vote per IP address, it would at least give an indication of how the all important demographic is going to vote. If it’s allowing multiple votes, it’s just American Idol for GOP candidates.

  5. Robble robble robble. Robble robble. Robble robble robble. Robble robble robble robble. Ron Paul robble robble robble.

  6. You will be hearing from us.

    1. It was just a campaign before its time.

      The character will soon be back, renamed “HamDexter”.

  7. Why is Obama’s commitment to fighting fraud “historic”?

    Do you mean “unprecedented”? Because its certainly not that.

    Do you mean “not around anymore”? Because that seems redundant with “putting it on hold.”

    If you want to fight fraud in Medicare (without, of course cutting down on the whole gravy train thing), there’s really only one way to do it:

    Simplify. Complexity is the enemy of compliance, and the friend of fraudsters and confidence men.

    1. It was called “historic” by the media at the time.

    2. Though perhaps “histrionic” would have been more fitting.

  8. Medicare is a mess. It is complicated and pays poorly. As long as people don’t have to pay even a portion of their care, they will not care what it costs the government.

    Me: do you a backbrace?
    Pt: sure
    Medicare pays $1000, I pay 64

    After my reform,
    Me: do you want a back brace
    pt: sure, but what will I have to pay
    Me: $100
    Pt: No way, that is too expensive.

    See the beauty of the system

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