GAO Finds Medicaid Paying to Treat the Dead
Just in time to throw another twist into the health reform debate, the Government Accountability Office reported today that Medicaid is paying to fill prescriptions for the dead.
After studying Medicaid claims in five states — California, New York, North Carolina, Illinois and Texas — GAO found more than 1,800 cases, between fiscal years 2006 and 2007, when Medicaid paid to fill controlled substance prescriptions for patients who had already died. The tab totaled more than $200,000, GAO said.
Additionally, GAO found, Medicaid paid more than $500,000 in those same states to filled similar prescriptions “written” by more than 1,200 physicians who had died beforehand.
Some of the most commonly abused medications, GAO found, included OxyContin, Ambien, Ritalin and Valium.
The report worked its way into today’s health reform debate in the Senate Finance Committee. Sen. Charles Grassley (Iowa), the panel’s senior Republican, said the findings were clear indication that identity theft is a problem in Medicaid. Grassley was urging passage of his amendment requiring potential Medicaid patients to show photo IDs in order to enroll in the program. No dead person, Grassley argued, can produce an ID.
But Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), a former state attorney general, countered that the Medicaid fraud involving dead folks most often originates with providers trying to get paid for nothing, not patients trying to get free care. “The fraud in Medicaid is provider fraud,” Bingaman said.
The Grassley measure failed along party lines.