In tonight's 60 Minutes episode, the lead item was on the huge amount of Medicare fraud that takes place. Scam artists get lists of patients, lists of expensive items they can bill to Medicare, and a bank account. Then they go to town and steal tens of millions of dollars. The whole thing is worth watching and/or reading. Two highlights struck me. First, Steve Kroft interviews the woman in the federal Department of Health and Human Services who is responsible for reducing fraud. Her name is Kim Brandt, Medicare's director of "program integrity." You can't make this stuff up. Told by Kroft that she's doing a lousy job, she replies:
Well, it really does come down to the size and scope of the Medicare program, and the resources that are dedicated to oversight and anti fraud work. One of our biggest challenges has been that we have a program that pays out over a billion claims a year, over $430 billion, and our oversight budget has been extremely limited.
Well, yes, it does come down to the size and scope of Medicare. And that's getting bigger. By the way, Ms. Brandt has left the government.
Then, Kroft asks the U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder why it took the government so long to "figure out they were being scammed." Holder replied:
I think people I don't think necessarily thought that something as well intentioned as Medicare and Medicaid would necessarily attract fraudsters.