Posted by: notdeaddinosaur | 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.

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