KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

GAO: Medicaid Wastes Millions On Phony Prescriptions For Painkillers

A new report by the Government Accountability Office "finds that state and federal officials failed to detect millions of dollars in Medicaid prescription drug abuse," USA Today reports. "An audit of the government program in five large states found about 65,000 instances of beneficiaries improperly obtaining potentially addictive drugs at a cost of about $65 million during 2006 and 2007 - including thousands of prescriptions written for dead patients or by people posing as doctors."

The report "represents 'an enormous opportunity to save money,' says Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., who has scheduled a hearing today on the findings. When bills for the doctors' visits are added, along with the potential for Medicaid fraud in states not reviewed by the GAO audit, Carper said: 'We're talking hundreds of millions of dollars.'"

President Obama has argued "that a massive expansion of health care coverage can be funded by squeezing waste out of the current system." The GAO report indicates there could be significant savings. "But as Obama continues to press for a government-run health insurance plan, the GAO report also reveals shortcomings in how the government manages Medicaid," which "underwrote more than $23 billion in drug costs last year" (Kiely, 9/30).

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