A couple weeks ago President Obama held a health care reform summit at the White House and brought together experts from a variety of perspectives to discuss key issues. Fraud apparently wasn’t one of them. The summit report was released this morning and fraud scored three brief mentions in the 56-page report. The first was in the President’s introduction:
We can agree that if we want greater accountability and responsibility, we must ensure that people aren’t overcharged for prescription drugs, or discriminated against for pre-existing conditions—and we need to eliminate fraud, waste and abuse in government programs.
The second mention by Sen. Arlen Spector (R-Pa.) related to the need to increase prosecutions for Medicare and Medicaid fraud so the fines the federal government is handing out is not just “a cost of doing business.”
The third mention was by former HHS Secretary Donna Shalala during a discussion on containing health care costs. She said:
“…it may take awhile to drive down costs, but we can go after fraud aggressively right now.”
She has it absolutely right. Fraud takes perhaps $100 billion or so out the pool of money that could go to cover uninsured Americans and lower everybody’s premiums. It’s not the largest cost driver, but a significant one that the Administration and Congress need to fully address in taking on health care reform.
The coalition and others in the fraud-fighting community have sent our wish list to Capitol Hill on anti-fraud elements that should be included in the debate. Let’s hope the policymakers are listening.
You can download a copy of the White House report here.
Update: During Senate hearings today, Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, secretary-designate of Health & Human Services, called for a crackdown on medical fraud as part of any health care overhaul. That’s a good sign.