Medicare Fraud Enabling Bill Gaining Traction on Capitol Hill?

Medicare Fraud Enabling Bill Gaining Traction on Capitol Hill?

Rep. Sam Graves sponsors Medicare Fraud Enabling Bill

Rep. Sam Graves sponsors Medicare Fraud Enabling Bill

Legislation pending in Congress would gut effective anti-fraud efforts in the Medicare program, alleges the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, EHR Intelligence reports. The legislation “would have a chilling effect on the RAC ( Recovery Audit Contractors) program, one of the government’s few successful initiatives to identify and recover waste, fraud, and abuse in Medicare,” EHR Intelligence stated.

Veteran observers of Congress know that vigilance is key. Just when appears the grassroots efforts might have nipped a terrible bill in the bud, it comes back with a vengeance.

Consumer advocates are drawing attention to a bill heavily pushed by the big hospital lobby that would enable Medicare fraud, resulting in billions of additional government dollars wasted on improper payments.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO), who is rated a fairly liberal Republican by the Madison Project analysis of his voting record, would gut an audit program that has identified billions of dollars in Medicare fraud at the beck of call of hospitals that would otherwise profit from that fraud.

The legislation, the “Medicare Audit Improvement Act,” (“improvement” here does not mean finding more fraud), already has 47 co-sponsors in the House.

The bill is co-sponsored by a number moderate to liberal Republicans as well as many Democrats, Real Clear Politics reports in listing the co-sponsors. Notably, not a single member of the GOP Doctors Caucus, a group of former doctors in the House who know healthcare well, has signed on.

The legislation targets the “Recovery Audit Contractors” (RAC) program, in which the government pays auditors a commission for successfully identifying fraudulent Medicare payments. Medicare annually issues roughly $50 billion a year in fraudulent payments, according to the Mercatus Institute, which is, for example, about twice the annual Gross Domestic Product of Paraguay.

Healthcare providers are fighting back against the RAC program and support the Graves bill, Forbes magazine reports.

(T)hey are fighting back in Congress. The Medicare Audit Improvement Act (S. 1012/H.R. 1250), which has bipartisan support in both houses of Congress, seeks to limit the powers of RAC auditors, even impose penalties upon them if they act improperly. These same auditing companies are none too happy about the bill, and claim it will cost the federal government billions if passed,” Forbes reported.

Consumer advocates remind us voters didn’t send them to Washington to enable Medicare fraud. Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS), is an outspoken conservative who received a cool $1000 donation from the hospital lobby eight days after he signed on as a cosponsor. In fact, a close look at the list reveals numerous lawmakers who received donations very near to the time they cosponsored the bill – as well as many members who will face competitive elections and could really use the cash. Perhaps it’s not to cynical to see that the two are related.

Those payments go to hospitals who are essentially using improper payments to pad their profits, critics of the bill say, and don’t react kindly when meddlesome auditors inform the government those payments were actually illegal.

The hospitals, in turn, have vociferously complained that they are faced with overwhelming paperwork requirements in trying to keep up with auditors’ document requests. Maybe that is worth it if it effectively finds $50 billion in Medicare fraud.

There is something quite interesting about this issue. A top government official recently revealed at a congressional hearing that 51 percent of the hospitals’ appeals of the RAC audits were filed by five hospitals. So, only a small group of hospitals are asserting this is a problem, that they want to be fixed, regarding the RAC audit process.

Medicare fraud certainly is a real issues, as the Inquisitr reported last month, 243 individuals were charges with $712 million in false filings under Medicare. The Attorney General stated that this was the largest ever prosecution of health care fraud. Given the scope of the problem with Medicare fraud, it is understandable that if the RAC program is effective there will be significant opposition to legislation that might gut the program.

Is the Graves bill really a solution to a problem, or perhaps an elimination of a solution that some think is a problem? Consumer advocates and grass-roots activists will ultimately send a message to members of Congress, and it will remain to be seen if so-called Medicare Audit Improvement Act becomes laws or is defeated in Congress. Opponents of the bill clearly see it as an attempt to eliminated an effective anti-fraud program.

[Photo of Cong. Sam Graves from his official portrait via Wikipedia.]

 

The Poison You Pay For In More Ways Than One

The Poison You Pay For In More Ways Than One

High Fructose Corn Syrup is high priced, unhealthy, poison

High Fructose Corn Syrup is high priced, unhealthy, poison

What poison am I talking about? A poison that many don’t realize is one of the most unhealthy and expensive substances that many of you eat or drink every day. This poison costs you at the cash register, on tax day, and in the end in your health insurance bill when the consumption of it makes you substantially, and unnecessarily, less healthy. The poison I’m referring to is called High Fructose Corn Syrup, or HFCS for short. HFCS is used in many foods and beverages as a substitute for regular sugar to sweeten the flavor of many products that we eat and drink.

HFCS was invented in a Japanese laboratory in the 1960s as a sugar substitute because sugar prices were high, and it’s not a natural product at all. HFCS is a highly processed substance made via an extremely complex manufacturing process involving several steps and the use of several enzymes and other substances to process and refine the corn syrup in order to maximize it’s fructose content. In the end, it creates a sweetener that is in some ways sweeter than sugar, but substantially less expensive for food producers than sugar because the HFCS is massively subsidized by taxpayers via the farm policies that support corn growing. Additionally, something our government did to favor HCFS over sugar, in the later 1970s, was to limit the importing of sugar, which raised the price of sugar and made it even less competitive against HFCS. If we stopped subsidizing HFCS through corn subsidies, sugar would likely be as cheap if not cheaper than HFCS.

Due to the subsidies, we pay for the high cost of HFCS when we pay our taxes, that go to corn and HFCS producers. Because a high percentage of corn is grown for the production of so much HFCS (and corn ethanol to add to the gasoline), this creates less of a supply of corn grown for livestock feed and human consumption of corn as food, leading to higher prices for the corn that we eat, and high prices of all the meats that are raised by feeding corn to cows, pigs, and chickens. In short, the subsidies to corn cost us tax dollars, and also costs us more dollars at the cash register at the supermarket in the form of higher grocery prices. HFCS is a bad deal all around for us as consumers, and it’s even worse when health issues regarding it are taken into consideration.

HFCS is also the least healthy form of sugar you can consume. In fact, it is so unhealthy, it should be called Type 2 Diabetes in a bottle, or a can, because it does more to increase one’s risk of insulin resistance, and Type 2 Diabetes, than any other sweetener used in food and beverages. Simply put, there are several forms of sugars, and they very in healthiness, or unhealthiness, by the degree to which they cause your blood sugar to spike. This is what physicians refer to as the glycemic index of a sweetener. Fructose is the worst on this scale, and Dr. Mercola recommends that healthy individuals consume no more than 25 grams of it per day, and those with blood sugar, insulin resistance issues, or any type of Diabetes should consume fewer than 15 grams of the stuff. He explains it here, and also notes that the sweetener that has the highest concentrations of fructose is HFCS.

The reason HFCS is much less healthy than regular sugar is quite simple. Regular sugar is made up of a molecule of glucose tied to a molecule of fructose, and the digestive process of your body separates these, and the glucose is the preferred sugar for your body, while the fructose is processed by the liver into body fat, and when too much of that happens, your blood sugar rises, the body creates more insulin, your blood sugar rises, and you are more likely to gain weight. Over time, this process taking place more due to higher consumption of sugar causes insulin resistance, and ultimately Type 2 Diabetes. No one in immune from this. And consuming HFCS brings about this condition so much sooner since it not only contains a much higher percentage of fructose, but the processing of it separates the molecules of fructose from the glucose. This means the fructose is more readily absorbed and processed, spiking ones blood sugar levels higher and faster, and leading to much more rapid insulin resistance. Consuming HFCS at ANY levels, now much more moderate, is unhealthy!

Not only does HFCS cause insulin resistance and Type 2 Diabetes, but it is also implicated in causing hearth disease, obesity, cancer, dementia, liver failure, tooth decay, and number of other health issues. The stuff is just really incredibly unhealthy, it truly is poison and no one should ever eat or drink the stuff!

You pay for HFCS in taxpayer subsidies, and then in the highest costs of food. The third way you pay for HFCS, if you consume the stuff, over time is in the form of poor health, the limits to the quality of your life that such poor health will lead to, and the costs of your health care for that poor health. Treatment for all those health issues, possibly with expensive prescription medications, surgeries, and other medical treatment will run up gigantic medical bills. Most of us will pay those bills to the insurance companies, the hospitals and doctors, or to the government in taxes to pay for the higher costs of programs like Medicaid, Medicare, and Obamacare. The more HFCS consumed, the more we’re all going to rendering to Caesar, and Kaiser Permanente, perhaps, as well.

You can eat and drink HFCS if you wish. Check the ingredients of all the food and beverages you purchase if you’re wishing to avoid it. But if you choose to keep drinking and eating HFCS, you will be paying for it now and in the future in at least three ways financially, and in a major way with poor health. HFCS really is poison. And it would likely go away if we stopped subsidizing it with our tax dollars.