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After months of telling us that one of the ways he is going to fund the Health Care plans he is trying to shove down our throats, is via eliminating Medicare waste and fraud. Today, after ten months in office the White House has found some fraud.

The federal government made $98 billion in improper payments in fiscal 2009, and President Obama will issue an executive order in coming days to combat the problem, his budget director announced Tuesday.

The 2009 total for improper payments — from outright fraud to misdirected reimbursements due to factors such as an illegible doctor’s signature — was a 37.5 percent increase over the $72 billion in 2008, according to figures provided by Peter Orszag, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget.

In an evening media briefing, Orszag was unable to provide an overall figure for what percentage of the bad payments was due to fraud. He also lacked a breakdown on how much of the total improper payments involved spending on Obama’s $787 billion economic recovery package passed in February.

“Our goal is to make sure the right person or entity gets the right amount at the right time,” he said.

The increase in the total over the previous year was due in part to improved detection through stricter and expanded accounting methods, Orszag said. 

Wait a second, are you saying you knew this stuff was happening a year ago and didn’t do anything about it till today?

For example, $24 billion of improper payments in the Medicare fee-for-service health care program for senior citizens represented 7.8 percent of total payments to the program, compared to 3.6 percent in improper payments for the program a year earlier, he said.

This year, Orszag said, an improper doctor’s signature was “much more likely” to trigger an improper payment than in 2008.

Overall, improper payments for the Medicare fee-for-service program and the Medicare Advantage accounted for $36 billion, or more than a third of the 2009 total.

….Orszag said the executive order coming in the next week will promote transparency, strengthen accountability and provide incentives to improve the government payment process, Orszag said.

NEXT WEEK? Why not nine months ago?

Obama and Democratic leaders say that wiping out waste and fraud in Medicare, including the elimination of more than $100 billion in government subsidies for the Medicare Advantage program in which private insurers supplement standard Medicare coverage, will reduce government health care costs by several hundred billion dollars.

Obama’s executive order will include setting up Web site dashboards for each agency to provide the public with “easy-to-follow” information on improper payments, including tracking error rates and identifying responsible officials, Orszag said.

OOH a website, I wonder if they are going to track the Medicare waste in those extra congressional districts, just like they did on

It also will designate Senate-appointed officials in each agency to be accountable for combating improper payments, and require specific plans for reducing improper payments when any agency shows an increase two years in a row, according to Orszag.

Incentives in the executive order will reward states, local communities and other organizations for reducing improper payments and increase penalties for contractors that fail to report problems such as receiving double payments for work done or getting paid despite doing no work, Orszag said.

The President had ten months to attack government waste in Medicare and did nothing. All of a sudden it is important enough to announce.  While it is a noble effort, the cynic in me can’t help feel that it is tied more to his desire to pass Obamacare, then actually trying to cut waste.

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