05.26.2010 0

$500 billion in Medicare savings?

By Bill Wilson

One of the reasons ObamaCare received a 10-year “deficit-neutral” rating from the Congressional Budget Office was because it promised to cut waste, fraud, and abuse from Medicare on average by about $50 billion a year, or $500 billion over ten years. That’s an amazing claim, because as noted by a 60 Minutes segment that aired last year, Medicare fraud is estimated to total about $60 billion a year.

For the Obama Administration to make good on its claims, it must eliminate roughly 83 percent of the current fraud in the Medicare program on an annual basis — and ensure there will be no newly-minted fraud in the ObamaCare program with its purported 34 million new health care recipients.

If Barack Obama is wrong, there is no question that the legislation will impose a catastrophic burden on the national debt, now at $13 trillion. Put into perspective, based upon the White House’s own ten-year budget plan, the national debt will grow by about $10.6 trillion by 2020. But since the budget assumes $50 billion saved every year for fraud elimination, the cost of failure is that the debt will grow by more than $11.1 trillion by 2020 instead.

That doesn’t even include interest owed on that additional debt, which could be the difference between the nation’s bond rating being downgraded or not. Moody’s has recently warned that if the nation’s interest-owed-to-revenue rises above 18 percent, the U.S. Triple-A debt rating could be downgraded, according to Investor’s Business Daily. According to the Congressional Budget Office, that level will be reached by as soon as 2018.

But, if Obama & Co. are wrong about eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse in Medicare, a debt downgrade — and the higher interest rates, taxes, and inflation associated with it — will be sooner. That’s how deep in the red we really are.

So, with the solvency of the Treasury on the line, Obama must have a really good plan to eliminate nearly all Medicare fraud, right? Well, a recent flier sent to Medicare recipients by the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) revealed yesterday by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell promises that “The new law contains important new tools to help crack down on criminals seeking to scam seniors and steal taxpayer dollars.”

Like what? Seniors are alerted that “You are an important resource in the fight against fraud. Be vigilant and rely only on your trusted sources of information about your Medicare benefits… Call 1-800-MEDICARE if you… want to report something that seems like fraud.”

That’s the big plan. Grandma and Grandpa will succeed where the CMS and Justice Department have failed to bring down a $60 billion-a-year criminal syndicate (as pervasive as the U.S. narcotics trade) leeching off of American taxpayers — and those savings are just a phone call away. All they have to do is dial 1-800-MEDICARE.

Don’t believe that this is the government’s basic plan to eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse? CMS does. On Medicare.gov, the official site of Medicare, it states, “You, as the Medicare beneficiary, are the most important link in finding Medicare fraud. You know better than anyone what healthcare services you have received. Review your Medicare Summary Notice when you receive it, and make sure you understand all of the items listed.”

One hopes that those summary notices are written in really big letters — and in terms somebody besides a doctor might understand. Even if they were, depending on 65- to 90-year-olds to spot overcharging or outright fraud after Medicare benefits have already paid out appears in the least to be a very flimsy approach to saving $50 billion a year.

In an environment where the sovereign debt crisis threatens to take down Western civilization as we know it, Barack Obama had better have a superior plan to pay the bills than deputizing Granny to crack down on Medicare fraud.

Bill Wilson is the President of Americans for Limited Government.

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