Healthcare

Medicare Scam Rakes Taxpayers for $1.2 Billion

With this kind of rampant fraud, what could go wrong with Medicare for All?

Michael Swartz · Apr. 11, 2019

If you place a vast enough pot of money before a large enough pool of people, you eventually find out just how far people will go to get their greedy hands on the loot. Such is the case in a multinational Medicare scam that made headlines this week for its sheer size — the 24 arrested reportedly took a cut out of $1.2 billion in purloined fraudulent Medicare payments for various orthotic braces patients didn’t truly need.

The scam was as complex as it was widespread, involving overseas telemarketers preying on elderly Medicare recipients who were directed to a telemedicine firm where doctors would write prescriptions for durable medical equipment sight unseen. Medicare was charged between $500 and $900 per brace, depending on the type, with the call centers receiving a $289 kickback and the equipment retailer keeping the rest.

As for the patients? “Often in our interviews with patients, we find this equipment in the closet,” said Gary Cantrell, a deputy inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services. “It’s not even being utilized because it was never needed to start with.”

Sadly, this is not the first major Medicare scam to be uncovered, and it probably won’t be the last. A recent Government Accountability Office study found, “Estimated improper payment rates declined more than one percent from fiscal year 2016 to 2018 for all parts of Medicare — to 8.12 percent, 8.10 percent, and 1.66 percent for FFS, MA, and Medicare Part D, respectively. However, according to the Office of Management and Budget, the rate and amount of improper payments made in Medicare still represent some of the highest in the government.” In FY2018, that added up to $48 billion — by comparison, that’s nearly $9 billion more than the Trump administration requested on foreign aid for this fiscal year. You could have added to that the budget for a smaller Cabinet office like Commerce or Labor and still barely matched the amount taxpayers lost to fraud.

Moreover, the effect of this theft is that of sapping the little remaining strength from a sickly, frail patient. One recent estimate predicted the Medicare trust fund would run dry by 2026; a date our Brian Mark Weber pointed out is the same doomsday date we heard 18 years ago. (Social Security isn’t much better as it has a 2034 day of reckoning.) As our more seasoned readers are aware, while the alarm bells have sounded for decades thanks to Democrat scare tactics regarding cuts to entitlement programs, their “solutions” are the same old “tax the rich” bromides they’ve been peddling for years, now coupled with the new wrinkle of expanding the number of dependents by instituting “Medicare for All.”

Yet with an estimated “Medicare for All” price tag of an additional $3 trillion a year over and beyond a federal budget already well north of $4 trillion, imagine the enhanced opportunities for grifters and criminals to dive into that pile of cash. If it’s anything like the most recent Medicare scam, those ill-gotten gains will be laundered through a number of shell corporations and spent on luxury cars, yachts, and real estate in resort areas around the world while taxpayers foot the bill.

So allow us to remind our fellow Americans once again: If you place a vast enough pot of money before a large enough pool of people, you’ll realize that insane greed is an ugly but common human trait.

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