Donald Trump

Trump Should Expand Audits of Programs That Waste Taxpayers' Funds

Wouldn't that be nice?

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Trump
Jeff Malet Photography/Newscom

Let me dream for a second that the Trump administration is serious about rolling back the expansion of government that occurred during the George W. Bush and Barack Obama years. In that case, much of this effort will require congressional action. And that, of course, means persuading enough politicians to do the right thing without undermining the overall goal by having to pay each of them off with a new pet project for their district. What can the president do?

First, there are some areas in which he can act on his own—within the bounds of the Constitution—to rein in government. He did this already with executive orders requiring federal agencies to establish regulation watchdogs and cut two regulations for every new one that is created.

Cutting regulations is great, but it's just one small part of the battle. The large number of improper payments by government agencies is another area that could use the president's attention, with the worst culprit being the Medicare fee-for-service system. As I have written in the past, the Government Accountability Office estimates that the government makes roughly $137 billion in improper payments per year, a third of which is related to Medicare alone.

Of those payments, some are underpayments, some are overpayments and some are the result of downright fraudulent activities. For instance, hospitals have gotten pretty good at bilking taxpayers for extra money. Case in point: the recent $60 million payment by a major U.S. hospital service provider, TeamHealth, to settle the claim that a company it acquired paid big bonuses to its hospitalist doctors "by billing Medicare, Medicaid, the Defense Health Agency and the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program for higher and more expensive levels of medical service than were actually performed," according to the Department of Justice's press release. This followed several other prominent recent settlements under the False Claims Act, which makes liable those who defraud government programs.

The abuses that resulted in the TeamHealth settlement were brought to light by a whistleblower, but even when there are financial incentives to speak out, waiting on individuals to come forward is not enough to solve the problem.

That's where the Recovery Audit Contractor program comes in. The program exists for the sole purpose of uncovering fraudulent payments made by fee-for-service Medicare. It awards contracts to hunt for fraudulent payments, offering a monetary reward for uncovering any improper payments. In other words, there's finally someone with financial incentive to work on behalf of taxpayers!

Hospitals that have benefited from improper payments naturally dislike the program. They didn't want to return the $3.7 billion—itself only a fraction of total improper payments—that the RAC auditors recouped on behalf of taxpayers in 2013. They not only have lobbied against the program but also recently discovered that appealing every rejected claim would overwhelm the system.

You would think that this information and the data that revealed this to be a pretty common behavior would infuriate those who are supposed to be the stewards of our taxpayers' dollars. Not at all. I have reported in the past that both Republicans and Democrats in Congress have lent their support to special interest groups by trying to reduce the recovery of improper payments by RAC auditors. Also, rather than expand the RAC to respond to these claims and keep saving taxpayers billions per year, the Obama administration suspended key aspects of the program and dramatically limited others. As a result, the program has recovered less money in recent years.

Though it tells you on which side the Obama administration stood in the battle between special interests and taxpayers, it means that there is a tremendous opportunity for change if this new White House is willing. President Donald Trump could ensure that the program is brought back to full operation. Better yet, he and Congress could work together to expand the audits to include other spending programs that are highly susceptible to waste and abuse. Wouldn't that be nice?

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  1. Trump should do a lot of things.

    1. #WARONREGULATIONS is hopefully the smartest thing that comes out of his admin.

  2. I hope Trump audits bigly the entirety of the federal government.

    1. That would be all “Programs That Waste Taxpayers’ Funds”, since they all waste taxpayer funds

    2. so, I had heard this before but had to look it up to confirm… did you know that A) “bigly” is a word and that B) it’s doubtful Trump used that word as he tends to use the phrase “Big League” but it’s tough to parse out due to his accent.

  3. Reason loves Trump. They loooooooooooooooooooove him.

  4. How about having the Government Accountability Office *run* the government?

  5. I can’t wait for the Trumpistas to discover this program, which I named “The Future Mugabes of Africa”.

    (BTW, when State was first tasked with mounting this program, the understanding was it would be turned over to a private foundation when Obama left office, since it was his “passion project”. I laughed heartily at that idea. Everybody knows, once a program is entrenched in a bureaucracy, it just sits there like a tumor.)

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      1. Fuck your mother with a rusty chainsaw, bot.

        1. Well, that escalated quickly.

  6. Key datapoint not mentioned in this article: how much did the RAC program cost to operate?

  7. Right now, the incentive is to expand every department and every program and their budgets. More people, more work, more money. Give the bureaucrats an incentive to cut the budget. Every employee you get rid of, their supervisor gets 25% of their annual salary as a bonus. Every program you cut, half the money gets returned to the Treasury, half gets put into employee bonuses.

    It’s a shame you gotta bribe people into doing as much as possible with as few resources as possible, but Adam Smith explained a long time ago that it’s not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. Getting people to do what you want by means of threats and cajoling doesn’t work nearly as well as cold, hard cash.

    1. Trump should appoint Mitt Romney to head a program for a thorough stream-lining/downsizing of government a la Chainsaw Al Dunlap. Stick to your core functions and axe the mission creep crap.

      1. Romney sure liked small government.

        1. Romney was literally Hitler.

          1. When the several Earth-like planets were recently discovered, one brainless TV commenter said that the scientists had “literally sat at their computers for years looking for these planets.”

            I couldn’t decide which part of that annoyed me more…

    2. Good suggestions all. But I wager that the bureaucrat is not nearly as concerned with his own prosperity as he is with the declining prosperity of all “capitalists”.

      If you told one of these brain dead parasitic impudents that they could make more money by shrinking government, they would surely denounce you as insane.
      The American has been taught through 12-16 years of government brainwashing at public schools that there is only one all knowing, benevolent, right function in the world. That is a massive government throned by the likes of a brain dead puppet imbecile such as brak FDR clinton.

      seriously though. In a real, rational, non-SJW world, what industry would hire brak obama and in what capacity would he be entrusted at a for profit business?

      1. We don’t live in a rational world so many, many companies would hire him, unfortunately.

        1. Do you think he could pull off door greater at Wal-Mart though? I’m dead serious. This is a guy that is so confused, stupid, arrogant, and worthless other than fantastic oration.

          Would he only fit in in the working world as an angry Sha’NeNe at the TSA where he was told everything to do like a robot?

          1. Well he likes to spread it around so maybe agriculture is his true calling.

            1. This guy would protest poop scooping at the circus.

              A really cannot even think of a comical application of his skills. The only thing that petulant twerp can possibly do is talk about non-sense. He was an utter bumbling idiot without his prompter telling him what to do.
              Dumber than Ron burgundy.

          2. Tell us how you really feel.

            I don’t know I think it would be fun to have him open the door at Wal-mart.

            You opened the door and walked in
            Obama “I opened this door for you”.
            You get a cart
            Obama “I made sure there we carts there for you”
            You grab something
            Obama “It’s because of me that the shelves are stocked”
            You pay
            Obama “I think you have too much money. Oh and you are racist”

      2. “government brainwashing at public schools that there is only one all knowing, benevolent, right function in the world”

        Over at slashdot this morning there was a posting about some US employees being fired and replaced with outsourced H1B folks.

        There was a predictable stream of “fucking greedy 1%-er CEOs don’t care about people”, “Corporations are treating people like slaves…”, etc.

        Problem with all that was that the employer in question was the University of California, San Francisco. Which is of course a non-profit public university run by the State of California, staffed with what can only be assumed to be good residents of the People’s State of California–at least, if not actually those most enlightened of all progressives, San Fransicans.

    3. I would like to see some productivity requirementd by dept. There should be no universal federal pay simply by grade.

      1. And term limits for non uniformed bureaucrats. Civil ‘service’ should not be a career.

  8. I often see feel-good stories of altruism and kindness on my Facederp feed. Literally every single one involves a private citizen expending his or her personal wealth to help others. I have yet to see a similar story about a government employee or program (other than the occasional “cop break dances with local youths” propaganda piece).

    Yet all these stories – all of them – are posted by people who cry about how much we need government to take care of people, and that if government wasn’t doing it, nobody would.

    1. Heard at the lunch table yesterday, “Without the EPA we’ll not have clean air or water.”

      My response, “Tell that to the gold king mine.”

      1. If we did not have the EPA, I would surely enjoy pouring oil all over my property and polluting playgrounds with nuclear waste because I am capitalist.

        1. It’s a little known fact that hanford nuclear reserve is run by mcdonalds, or so I’m told.

  9. Dream on, Veronique. Trump wants to give the DOD (where the accounting is so bad it is un-auditable) an extra $54B.

    1. OTOH, he wants to cut State Dept. by close to $20B to at least partially offset.

      1. Oh god I hope they cut the State department’s security budget. That kind of hypocrisy is just the best.

  10. We should expand the audits to find government waste. It will be headed by a Blue Ribbon Panel that will oversee the development and selection of Joint Audit Task Forces who will organize under the Office of Auditing Special Operations to perform detailed analyses of all federal functions to discover and eliminate any and all unnecessary expenditures, except non-discretionary spending, defense, intelligence, homeland security, or anything dealing with public health and safety.

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  12. How about embracing an investigation into the “Russian connection” while simultaneously starting an investigation into voter fraud–especially improper voting by illegal aliens and people voting outside the district of their legal residence.

    Both sides say “There not a bit of evidence…” about their own favorite here, so such investigations *should* just be a waste of time and money, right?

    I know, this article was about trying to stop wasting money, but I for one would be interested if either of the investigations turned something up while at the same time don’t think that only one should be done while giving a pass on the other. Both are serious, both have about the same level of hearsay and allegations, both have the same “Not a bit of evidence” claims, both have the same sort of hyperbole inflating the claims to outlandish levels…

  13. I’ve observed that the federal government has usually spent this year what it took in in revenue about 5 years ago.

    So all it would take to get back in the black, so to speak, is to assume that right now we have a big enough government spending enough money–if we don’t have a big enough government now, we never will–and say “freeze it”. Don’t allocate another penny in budget for next over this year, not even for inflation. Hold that course for a mere five years and let revenues catch up.

    No big cuts needed, no new taxes needed. Just the fortitude to say enough is enough.

    Reallocate if you need to–take $20B from State to increase DoD budget, but do not allocate one single cent of overall increased spending. If agencies can actually cut back, so much the better.

    1. “I’ve observed that the federal government has usually spent this year what it took in in revenue about 5 years ago.”

      And that pattern has been true more-or-less for since at least GW Bush.

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