March 06,2001

Grassley Statement on Medicare Overpayments

The Department of Health and Human Services is prepared to release its annual report on the amount of improper payments through Medicare. The report shows a decrease in improper payments to $11.9 billion in Fiscal Year 2000 from $13.5 billion in Fiscal Year 1999 and $12.6 billion in Fiscal Year 1998. Sen. Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Committee on Finance, has long maintained oversight of efforts to curb the amount of improper payments made through Medicare. He made the following comment about the latest report.

"Unfortunately this is an old story. Year after year, the government wastes billions of dollars on improper Medicare payments. Every dollar wasted is a dollar that doesn't help a patient. Some of this waste probably goes to innocent billing mistakes. Some of it undoubtedly goes to fraud. With all of its available resources, the government should be able to stop this milking of the Treasury. We could pay for a lot of prescription drugs for older Americans with $11.9 billion.

"How do we curb these improper payments? We have a new secretary of Health and Human Services for the first time in eight years. Secretary Tommy Thompson brings a fresh perspective on cutting waste and squeezing value from every tax dollar. He is putting forward a number of major steps to reform the Health Care Financing Administration's infrastructure, including a request for $50 million to move toward a unified financial system. This is an important first step to reducing improper payments in the future, and I applaud his effort.

"I'm also working with the Health and Human Services inspector general to stop improper Medicare payments to treat prison inmates, the deceased, the deported and any others who don't deserve a legitimate claim on Medicare dollars. We need to turn off this spigot of waste."