Cato: More Federal Health Care Fraud

By Tad DeHaven of the Cato Institute.

Another day brings another example of federal health care fraud. Today’s story comes from “the nation’s healthcare fraud capital” of Miami-Dade County. The government’s crack investigators realized it was fishy that a single county was accounting for more than half of Medicare’s total payments for the treatment of homebound patients with diabetes. Miami-Dade doesn’t even have Florida’s highest rate of diabetes.

According to the Miami Herald, the defrauding isn’t sophisticated – it’s just good ole fashioned bribery:

Medicare officials, along with FBI agents and federal prosecutors, say some home healthcare agencies pay $100 bribes to doctors for each referral, and between $700 and $1,500 in monthly kickbacks to patients to use their Medicare numbers. Home-care operators also bribe patients with groceries, housekeeping, even flat-screen TVs.

The article points to why Medicare is so fraud prone:

Medicare, established by Congress in 1965, has been notoriously slow in responding to scams involving durable medical equipment, HIV infusion services and physical therapy this past decade. The annual estimated loss from fraud alone: $60 billion…The government healthcare program for the elderly and disabled is extremely vulnerable to fraud because of its policy of paying claims fast without verifying them.

I noted last week that government health care is awash in waste. Yet the Obama administration and its allies in Congress are hell bent on expanding government health care. In fact, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) just announced agreement on a plan that would allow people ages 55 to 64 to “buy in” to Medicare. As Michael Tanner put it, “Allowing younger workers to join the program is the equivalent of crowding a few more passengers onto the Titanic.”

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