Scary Movie Medicare Edition: We Pay Dead People

A new report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General finds that it pays to be dead. As the OIG explains:

Prior OIG studies and audit reports have identified Medicare payments made on behalf of deceased beneficiaries. … We identified Medicare beneficiaries who, according to the Social Security Administration, died from 2009 to 2011. We then identified Medicare Part A and B claims and Part C and D payments from 2011 associated with these deceased beneficiaries…

CMS [Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services] has safeguards to prevent and recover Medicare payments made on behalf of deceased beneficiaries; however, it inappropriately paid $23 million (less than one tenth of a percent of total Medicare expenditures) in 2011 after beneficiaries’ deaths. Part C accounted for 86 percent of these improper payments. Additionally, 11 percent of these improper payments resulted from missing or incorrect dates of death. Further, we identified 251 providers and suppliers that had high numbers of paid and/or unpaid Part B claims with service dates after beneficiaries’ deaths.

In all, $23.2 million was paid out to more than 17,000 deceased beneficiaries, averaging about $1,332 each (p. 13). There were 12 deceased beneficiaries who received more than $50,000 each in improper Medicare payments; and of those, two deceased beneficiaries received more than $100,000 each (p. 14).

No word on whether—much less how—HHS plans to refund those funds to living, breathing taxpayers who have to foot the bill for their lax oversight.

Vicki E. Alger is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and Senior Fellow and Director of the Women for School Choice Project at the Independent Women’s Forum. She is the author of the Independent book, Failure: The Federal Misedukation of America’s Children.
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