Fight Fraud First
The rhetoric about America’s debt crisis comes from all directions and spares no government program. It’s like a scavenger hunt gone crazy. Government bureaucrats are trying to save their jobs, politicians are trying to save their positions, and candidates are trying to get elected. They’re going door-to-door looking for something, anything that will be both politically correct and lower the debt. It’s easy in this environment of hysteria to forget what we are trying to accomplish -- when the alligator is nipping at your backside it’s hard to remember that the goal is to drain the swamp. The hysteria may have even caused these deficit fighters to jump into the swamp, where the alligator is, rather than finding other, easier and less dangerous ways to solve the problem. The haste to find solutions could have caused them to forget which steps ought to be taken first. Maybe it would’ve been smart to first stop water from coming into the swamp -- before they start trying to drain it.
I think this same thing is happening as the politicians and their committees look at ways to save money within Medicare. It seems that everyone is in a panic mode and not thinking clearly. It just seems so logical to first find and stop as much fraud as you can before you begin cutting benefits or raising patient costs. Our elected officials should stop the money from flowing out of the program to crooks before they even think about cutting patient benefits, harming providers, or raising premiums and co-pays.
An October 3, 2011 USA Today front page article noted that $48 billion was lost in 2010 due to improper payments, yet reducing fraud and abuse was only the fifth out of five separate ways identified in that same USA Today article as a way to squeeze overall Medicare costs. It should have been number one! The article recognized that it was the only one of the five methods for saving Medicare dollars that didn’t reduce benefits or raise costs for someone. If we stopped or recovered just 63% of the improper payments over the next 10 years we could pay to fix the entire physician formula problem that threatens to undermine the entire Medicare system.
We can’t let the hysteria of the moment cloud our basic common sense. It’s time to recognize there are some steps we ought to take first before we dive into the swamp with the alligators. Let’s fight fraud first!