Health insurance rip-offs come under scrutiny

A pair of editorials last week took up the issue of Medicare and Medicaid fraud, waste and abuse, signifying these problems are becoming a greater focus of public attention and debate.

"Area ambulance companies are facing deserved scrutiny for their disproportionate share of the nation's outsize[d] healthcare costs," The Inquirer wrote. Ground ambulance providers around Philadelphia collected 64 percent more Medicare dollars than the national average in 2012, with 33 area companies raking in 10 times the norm, the article noted.

"No wonder Medicare has stopped taking new company enrollments while it sorts out the fraud," the article stated.

The Inquirer referenced charges against eight local ambulance providers since 2011, including one's five-year prison sentence for executing a $3.6 million scam involving kickbacks for unnecessary transport.

"Medicare is still not as open [as] it should be," the editorial said. "It has spurned numerous attempts by The Inquirer to get additional information on the ambulance companies that are costing the government the most." The paper wants to know if aberrant providers still collect federal money and if Medicare demanded overpayment refunds.

Meanwhile, a Farmington Daily Times editorial highlighted the case of Agave Health, Inc., an Arizona mental health services company that in six months received more than $172,000 from Medicaid. Half this money was disbursed before the completion of a state audit led to a funding freeze for 15 nonprofit healthcare providers.

"The question is whether those payments suggest state officials prejudged the conclusion of the audit before it was completed," the editorial stated.

That audit exposed $36 million in Medicaid overpayments, the Times reported, which led New Mexico to halt Medicaid funding to in-state providers and shift business to Arizona companies like Agave. But New Mexico paid Agave more than it paid in-state providers. Agave billed $75 per hour for services of a family support worker, for example, while a local provider whose payments the state stopped paid workers $14.58 hourly for the same job, according to The Times.

For more:
- here's The Inquirer editorial
- read the Farmington Daily Times editorial