Musings of a Dinosaur

A Family Doctor in solo private practice; I may be going the way of the dinosaur, but I'm not dead yet.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

From the Washington Post:

Medicare has paid as much as $92 million since 2000 to medical suppliers who billed the government for wheelchairs and other home equipment purportedly prescribed by physicians who, according to records, were dead at the time, congressional investigators said yesterday.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) honored about 500,000 such claims despite pledging six years ago to correct the problem, which was identified by the Health and Human Services Department's inspector general in 2001.

In more than half the cases studied, the doctor listed as having ordered the equipment had died more than five years earlier, said a report by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee's permanent subcommittee on investigations.

"We discovered that some medical equipment suppliers have scammed the Medicare system -- and the American taxpayers -- out of massive amounts of money," Sen. Norm Coleman (Minn.), the panel's top Republican, said in a statement.
What do you want to bet CMS responds like this:
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced today that they are launching a thorough investigation into the recent allegations of fraud by dead doctors by pursuing their heirs.

"Doctors are responsible for the use and abuse of their Medicare identification numbers. Nothing in the statute absolves them of that responsibility at death," said a CMS spokesman. "Physicians should have made provisions for the deactivation of the number as part of their estate planning, and their failure to do so has cost the American public millions of dollars. We intend to recoup those funds from their heirs and assigns."

As with other types of Medicare fraud, CMS acknowledged that they would be seeking triple damages from the doctors' heirs. The possibility of fraud prosecutions had also not been ruled out.


At Thu Jul 10, 07:46:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

CMS might consider what we called "death checks" at our pension fund. Namely, compare publicly available death records to their physician list. We hire college students to follow-up on discrepancies. This is not rocket science. Nor should it be the physician's responsibility to do the government's work even after his death. That's my non-physician view.

At Thu Jul 10, 08:20:00 AM, Blogger Lynn Price said...

Ah yes, put the government in charge of anything, and they screw it up. And this is who we want taking care of our medical needs? No thanks.

At Thu Jul 10, 09:50:00 AM, Blogger CrankyProf said...


You do know that the SMother worked for CMS back in the day (mid-'90's)?

At Thu Jul 10, 01:28:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is just another reason why this med student won't take medicare once I'm out there.

At Thu Jul 10, 01:44:00 PM, Blogger Margaret Polaneczky, MD (aka TBTAM) said...

Don't give 'em any ideas..

At Thu Jul 10, 09:06:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Social security, the IRS know when you're dead. Is CMS so clueless they can't access public record like everyone else? And why aren't they going after the medical equipment companies, who, after all, are the ones who perpetrated the fraud in the first place? This is why I don't waste a lot of time worrying about who gets elected come November. It's the bureaucrats who are really putting it to us--nobody elects 'em and they NEVER leave.

At Fri Jul 11, 09:47:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Once again CMS has failed to make corrections and allow fraudsters to cheat the US Taxpayer. Why weren't edits put in place immediately when the OIG exposed the problem? It doesn't surprise me however. Having previously worked for a Medicare contractor I saw first hand the inefficiencies of CMS. Many of the contractors CMS hired to help monitor the Medicare program weren't much better.

John W. Schilling
Author - Undercover

At Sat Jul 12, 06:43:00 PM, Blogger Resident Anesthesiologist Guy (RAG) said...

And yet, again, another reason I can give for why Uncle Sam should stay as far away from medicine as possible. Absurd.

At Sun Jul 13, 11:22:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with TBTAM on this one. Don't give 'em any ideas! Great post. :)

At Wed Jul 16, 03:55:00 PM, Blogger petes2cents said...

I am in shock and appalled on how the government just allows criminals to get away with all sorts of white collar crime. This Medicare fraud has been going on from 2000 to 2007, and probably still going on...It is unbelievable that our powerful government, with cutting edge technology, does not have the internal controls, to either prevent this type of crime to happen or at least keep it to a minimum.

Isn't there a system that can cross reference a prescription, that is being processed from a deceased physician ? Geeze, I can probably whip one up by dinner time.

And the beauty of it all is, that at the end of the day, we the consumers, the tax payers, will continue to pay for all the mistakes in government, like fools. Healthcare will continue to rise, to the point, that the entire system will collapse, just like real estate, commodities, and the stock market. And this collapse is coming soon and maybe right around the corner.


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