Treasury Prints Money, HHS Burns It

Tom Temin | Federal News Radio | September 7, 2016

Like invasive vines, so-called improper payments seem totally resistant to agency efforts to cut them down. You won’t find it on the home page, where most agencies put only happy news, but Health and Human Services has warned improper payments through Medicaid are rising fast. They’ll hit an estimated 11.5 percent this year, or $30 billion. The rate last year was 9.8 percent. The dollars were about $15 billion in 2013.  Medicare is even worse at 12 percent in its fee-for-service programs.

This despite an Obama administration concerted effort starting in 2009 to tamp down on improper payments. It’s failed. The Government Accountability Office’s Beryl Davis, who overseas all investigations involving finance, says governmentwide improper payments hit $137 billion in 2015. That’s up more than 10 percent from 2014. So with nearly a quarter of fraudulent federal payments sloshing out through the Medicaid program, what in holy heck is going on?

HHS itself puts ineligible and excluded providers at the top of the list. Second comes identity theft. The back story on providers: Rules for provider eligibility are constantly changing, and they vary from state to state. That’s partly a function of the Affordable Care Act. HHS says, somewhat euphemistically, “States are facing greater challenges keeping pace with stricter enrollment requirements”...