Medicare fraud cuts disputed by IG

In 2006, CMS said that it had managed to cut the level of Medicare fraud by billions of dollars, and basked in the praise of lawmakers who commended the agency's good stewardship. The problem: the gains may have been an illusion, or arguably, a deliberate deception. That, at least, is the conclusion drawn by the HHS Inspector General's office, according to a confidential draft of a report investigating Medicare fraud-fighting.

According to the IG, Medicare officials engaged in questionable methods when they calculated fraud levels. For example, they instructed auditors not to compare invoices submitted by salespeople against doctors' records to make sure that medical equipment actually went to patients. (This step is required by law.) Because they didn't take this step, Medicare officials missed more than one-third of improper spending for wheelchairs, oxygen supplies and other medical equipment for fiscal 2006. That accounts for about $2.8 billion in improper spending, negating the $700 million for which officials took credit. Now, some members of Congress are outraged, and say that they're not sure they can trust other Medicare figures either. (Can't say I blame them!)

To learn more about the IG's report:
- read this piece from The New York Times

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