Good for the goose…

From Steve Moses, our Healthcare Fellow, sent this via his daily LTC bulletin:

You hear a lot of talk about fraud, waste and abuse in government programs. Medicare fraud especially shows up as a virtual treasure chest of potential savings. But I don’t think committing Medicare fraud was what the government had in mind to achieve those savings.

Yet, “Medicare fraud” sure seems to be the accusation former Health and Human Services Secretary Michael O. Leavitt leveled in an August 27 Washington Post op-ed titled “The Medicare Reform Illusion.” Read these excerpts and see what you think:

“Despite the report from Medicare’s trustees this month that the hospital insurance trust fund will not be depleted until 2029, 12 years later than was predicted just last year, Medicare is no better off than it was a year ago.”

“The problem begins with double counting. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the health law will reduce Medicare spending by about $450 billion over 10 years. But all of those savings, plus massive tax increases, are used in the new law to pay for an expansion of Medicaid and a new entitlement program to subsidize insurance premiums for low-income households.”

“Then there is the nature of the cuts. The administration recently penned a taxpayer-subsidized mailer for seniors touting the benefits the health law is to provide. Not mentioned are the deep cuts to Medicare Advantage, the private insurance component of Medicare, that will reduce benefits for the average enrollee by $800 per year later this decade.”

“Further, the new law imposes about a half-percentage-point cut every year in the annual increases in Medicare payment rates for hospitals and other institutional providers of care. . .. We know full well that this kind of arbitrary cost-cutting in Medicare doesn’t work. . . . The result is a bipartisan rush to undo the cuts every year. Why would we expect a different result from arbitrary cost-cutting in the new health law?”

“What Congress passed this spring is the illusion of Medicare reform. It does not ease cost pressures but papers over them with unsustainable price controls. It will end in disappointment, just as every other such effort has.”

“The writer was secretary of health and human services and a member of the Medicare Board of Trustees from 2005 to 2009.”

LTC Comment: Let’s see. Does it sound to you like the former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is accusing Congress and the new administration of Medicare fraud?

I see misrepresentation and misappropriation of funds alleged. Illusionary reform. “Double counting.” Bait and switch from cost cuts that won’t happen to cost increases that will. Unsustainable price controls. Ponzi accounting. Everything but “three-card Monte.”

Turnabout is fair play, of course.

If the current administration in Washington can blame all the country’s economic problems on the former administration, maybe it makes sense for the former administration to accuse the current administration of Medicare fraud.

But what a sad state of political affairs we’ve entered!


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