Buchanan Chairs Hearing to Fight Medicare Fraud
WASHINGTON — Congressman Vern Buchanan today chaired a congressional hearing aimed at weeding out fraud in the federal Medicare program.
Buchanan represents Florida’s 16th congressional district, which is home to more than 200,000 Medicare recipients.
“Strengthening Medicare should be a top priority for both parties,” Buchanan said. “Seniors have worked their whole lives with the promise of a safe retirement and need to know that Medicare will be there for them during their golden years.”
Buchanan, second from the right, chairs a hearing on Medicare fraud
Buchanan is the chairman of the U.S. House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee, a key watchdog panel with investigative authority over health care, the IRS, welfare, Social Security and Medicare.
The hearing follows one of the largest crackdowns on health care fraud in U.S. history. The Justice Department charged more than 400 individuals last Thursday with falsely billing $1.3 billion to the Medicare program as well as some private insurers, according to the Miami Herald.
Today’s hearing focused on how the government identifies and combats waste, fraud and abuse in all parts of the Medicare program. The committee heard from two witnesses: Jonathan Morse, acting director for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ Center for Program Integrity and James Cosgrove, director for the Government Accountability Office’s health care analysis.
There are nearly 55.5 million Medicare beneficiaries across the country, including four million in Florida alone, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. The Sunshine State ranks second in the country only to California for the highest number of Medicare beneficiaries.
Unfortunately, incidents of Medicare fraud have become all too common, occurring in communities across the country. The Department of Health and Human Services estimates nearly $60 billion was spent on improper payments program-wide in fiscal year 2015.
Other recent cases of Medicare fraud include:
- In Florida, a medical director and an owner of four Orlando-based infusion clinics were sentenced for their roles in a $13.7 million Medicare fraud conspiracy for submitting claims for expensive drugs that were never purchased, never provided and not medically necessary.
- In Louisiana, two owners of psychological services companies were sentenced for their involvement in a $25.2 million scheme to defraud Medicare by charging for nursing home services that were unnecessary or never performed.
- In Michigan, six doctors were charged for allegedly operating a scheme to provide patients with unnecessary opioid prescriptions and later billed Medicare for $164 million in false claims. Authorities said some of those drugs were sold on the street, according to USA Today.
Buchanan, a strong advocate for Medicare, said he is hopeful Congress will put forward a bipartisan plan that protects and preserves Medicare for future generations.
“Medicare is one of the government’s most successful programs and is a lifeline for millions of seniors,” Buchanan said. “Abuse of taxpayer dollars must end. I’m committed to strengthening Medicare to make sure it’s preserved for today’s seniors and future generations.”