Senate Budget Committee Members Press HHS on Billions of Improper Payments in Medicare and Medicaid

WASHINGTON D.C. – Republican members of the Senate Budget Committee sent a letter to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar today on his agency’s plan to address the $89 billion of improper payments made within the Medicare and Medicaid programs each year. Budget Chairman Mike Enzi (R-WY) led fellow committee members Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Bob Corker (R-TN), David Perdue (R-GA), John Boozman (R-AR), John Kennedy (R-LA), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Pat Toomey (R-PA), and Tom Cotton (R-AR) in pushing HHS to reduce these improper payments and ensure proper stewardship of taxpayer dollars.

In their letter to Secretary Azar, the senators wrote, “Improper payments continue to be a major problem for the federal government. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) estimates that government-wide improper payments totaled $141 billion in fiscal year 2017. The Department of Health and Human Services estimates that approximately $89 billion, or 63 percent of all improper payments, were made within the Medicare and Medicaid programs. We are deeply concerned by the substantial amount of improper payments in these two programs. Your attention to this matter is needed to ensure that taxpayer dollars are adequately safeguarded.”

The Budget Committee members also highlighted several GAO recommendations for reducing improper payments in Medicare and Medicaid that could be implemented without action from Congress. These include:

  • Monitoring the Recovery Audit Data Warehouse to ensure that all Medicare post-payment review contractors are submitting required data and that the database contents are accurate and complete;
  • Requiring states to measure quantifiable benefits, such as cost reductions or avoidance, achieved as a result of operating information systems to help prevent and detect improper payments;
  • Identifying opportunities to address barriers that limit states’ participation in collaborative audits for Medicaid; and
  • Taking immediate steps to assess and improve data available for Medicaid program oversight.

“Acting on the outstanding GAO recommendations is essential to reducing the amount of improper payments in these programs and could extend the life of Medicare’s Hospital Insurance trust fund. As members of the Senate Budget Committee, we believe that a high priority must be placed on reducing improper payments and ensuring proper stewardship of taxpayer dollars,” wrote the senators.

Read the full letter here.

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