There was general agreement during yesterday’s White House summit that more needs to be done to combat fraud in health care. During the seven hours of discussion, fraud came up a few times, but there no was substantive ideas or proposals put forth, with the exception of using undercover patients — like mystery shoppers — to trap crooked doctors.
The one remark that caught our ear was Sen. Tom Coburn’s assertion that there’s only one percent of fraud in the private health insurance market. He mentioned this during a hearing back in the summer and we were not able to track any credible source for this number. If his assertion was found to be true, many SIUs in health plans likely would be out of work.
Anyway, we’ve plowed through the seven hours of transcripts and came up with the following comments dealing with fraud:
Rep. Nancy Pelosi: “And I want to say, because Medicare was mentioned, unless we pass this legislation, we cannot keep our promises on Medicare. We simply must make the cuts in waste, fraud and abuse in Medicare so that the benefits and the premiums are untouched. “
Sen. Tom Colburn: “So when you break down the costs, what we know is 33 percent of the costs in health care shouldn’t be there. And how do we go about doing that? And what are the components of that cost? And when you look at, when it’s studied, if you look at what Malcolm Sparrow from Harvard says, he says 20 percent of the cost of federal government health care is fraud. That’s his number.
“If you look at Thomson Reuters, when they look at all of this, they say at least 15 percent of government-run health care is fraud.
“Well, when you look at the total amount of health care that’s government run, you know, you’re talking $150 billion a year.
“So tomorrow, if we got together and fixed fraud, we could cut health care 7.5 percent tomorrow for people in this country.
“How do we do that in terms of creating an elimination of fraud?
“You know, when you compare the private sector fraud rates, it’s 1 percent compared to Medicare and Medicaid. You know, there’s estimates that there’s $15 billion worth of fraud in Medicaid a year in New York City alone.
“And we ought to do it by not creating a whole bunch of new government programs, but by creating an incentive to reward people. In your new bill you have good fraud programs, but you lack the biggest thing to do. The biggest thing on fraud is to have undercover patients so that people know we’re checking on whether or not this is a legitimate bill. And you don’t know who’s an undercover patient and who’s not. And all of a sudden you start changing your attitude of whether or not you’re going to milk Medicare or you’re going to milk Medicaid.”
President Obama: “Every good idea that we’ve heard about reducing fraud and abuse in the Medicare and Medicaid system, we’ve adopted in our legislation. So that’s an example of where we agree. We want to eliminate fraud and abuse within the government systems.
Rep. Steny Hoyer: “We want to go after fraud, waste and abuse.”
Sen. Max Baucas: “And fraud and waste, we talked about that. We have major provisions in our bill to (inaudible) fraud and waste. Mr. President, I compliment you because in your proposal, you go even farther.”
Rep. Rob Andrews: “Fraud — the president has a proposal that says we should have a database. If you’ve committed fraud against Medicare once, you can’t make a contract again.”
Sen. Chuck Schumer: “And the real nub of this is how do we wring that waste out, that fraud, abuse, duplication, without interfering with the good care that we want every person on Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance to get?
“The average citizen knows this happens. How many times, when you look at your medical bill, you’ve undergone a minor procedure, and you see Dr. Smith, $4,000, and you sort of vaguely remember he just waved and poked his head in the door?
Or how about — probably it’s happening right now — there’s some salesman talking to some doctor and saying, “Hey, my company will finance a machine for you for a million dollars. So you don’t have to pay for it. You can gradually pay it. We’ll show you how to fill it up all the time and you’ll increase your income by $200,000.” And there’s another machine three blocks away that’s already working and available.”
Sen. Jon Kyl: “And it’s not a matter of just saying we all agree on the goal of reducing waste, fraud and abuse. We all do, of course. It’s how you do it.”
Rep. Xavier Becerra: “We have any number of provisions that deal with the issue of fraud, which it says at least totals $60 billion. And working with some of our Republican colleagues, we are doing exactly that, going after the waste that’s in the system, certainly the fraud. And that’s how we extract the number of the savings.”