Today, Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.) sent a letter to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction urging the Committee’s members to include strong measures to reduce waste and fraud in Medicare and Medicaid in its proposal to Congress this fall. Specifically, the Senators requested that the Committee use the waste- and fraud-fighting provisions of their bipartisan bill, The Medicare and Medicaid Fighting Fraud and Abuse to Save Taxpayers Dollars Act (S. 1251) – or the "FAST" Act – introduced in June 2011.
In the letter, the Senators cite the tens of billions of dollars lost to waste, fraud and abuse within Medicare each year. While these losses put a major drain on the federal budget, the Senators note that there are clear steps that Congress – and the Joint Committee – can take to greatly reduce the amount of money lost each year by adopting provisions of their bipartisan bill, the "FAST" Act. The FAST Act would greatly enhance program integrity efforts underway at Medicare and Medicaid to prevent waste and fraud. The legislation would save scarce taxpayer dollars while protecting quality healthcare coverage for the millions of Americans who depend on Medicare and Medicaid and do so without compromising the pay given to healthcare providers for the quality care they provide.
"The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction is charged with the monumental assignment of recommending over a trillion dollars in cuts to our nation’s deficit," said Sen. Carper. "The FAST Act can help that effort by putting important tools in place to reduce the billions of dollars lost to waste and fraud in Medicare and Medicaid. Reducing the waste and fraud that plagues these two vital healthcare programs that millions of Americans depend on, while still protecting the quality of care they provide and achieving our nation’s deficit reduction goals, is a win-win-win that all Americans can support. While the FAST Act is not a silver bullet to solve our nation’s budgetary woes, it is an important piece of the deficit reduction puzzle and deserves serious consideration from the Committee. This is the right thing to do, both for the health of Medicare and Medicaid and for our federal budget as a whole."
"Each year we don’t reform Medicare and Medicaid, tens of billions of dollars will continue to be lost to waste, fraud and abuse," said Dr. Coburn. "Now is the time to reject the status quo and implement long-term solutions. The FAST Act provides a widely supported guideline for taking an important first step toward program integrity and deficit reduction."
The FAST Act has garnered support from a number of organizations including AARP, Citizens Against Government Waste, the National Taxpayers Union and Taxpayers for Common Sense.
The full text of the letter follows:
September 29, 2011
The Honorable Jeb Hensarling, Co-Chair
The Honorable Patty Murray, Co-Chair
Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction
825B Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
Dear Representative Hensarling and Senator Murray:
We are writing to ask that you consider including strong measures to reduce waste and fraud in Medicare and Medicaid in the proposal the Joint Select Committee makes to Congress this fall.
Each year, Medicare and Medicaid lose tens of billions of dollars to waste, fraud and abuse. According to estimates prepared by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the two programs together made an estimated $70 billion dollars in improper payments in fiscal year 2010. In addition, experts believe that these two vital programs will likely lose tens of billions of dollars in fraud each year as well. Without a doubt, waste and fraud from Medicare and Medicaid are a major drain from the federal budget.
However, there are clear steps Congress can take to greatly reduce the amount of money lost each year to waste and fraud in Medicare and Medicaid. A number of those steps are included in legislation we introduced this summer, The Medicare and Medicaid Fighting Fraud and Abuse to Save Taxpayers Dollars Act (S. 1251) – or the "FAST" Act (see attached). The legislation has already garnered a substantial number of bipartisan cosponsors in the Senate.
Each of the FAST Act provisions aims to greatly enhance program integrity efforts underway at Medicare and Medicaid to prevent waste and fraud. Among its provisions, the legislation would:
o enact stronger penalties for Medicare and Medicaid fraud;
o establish stronger prevention strategies to help phase out the practice of "pay and chase;"
o curb the theft of physician and beneficiary identities;
o improve the sharing of fraud data across agencies; and
o deploy cutting-edge technology to better identify and prevent fraud.
This bipartisan bill does not make changes to coverage for beneficiaries or change medical service pricing. Because of its common-sense approach, the legislation has garnered support from a number of organizations including AARP, Citizens Against Government Waste, the National Taxpayers Union and Taxpayers for Common Sense. In fact, most of the provisions are based on findings and recommendations from the Government Accountability Office, the HHS Office of the Inspector General, and other trusted experts and stakeholders. Additionally, several of the provisions are Administration proposals that have not yet been enacted or implemented.
The millions of Americans who depend on Medicare and Medicaid will benefit when these programs are strengthened through the prevention of waste and fraud. In order to protect the programs’ finances and the Americans who count on them, we respectfully request that you adopt the FAST Act as part of your final plan.
United States Senator
Tom Coburn M.D.
United States Senator