Panel queries $1 billion spent by Medicare
The government paid more than $1 billion in questionable Medicare claims for medical supplies that showed little relation to patients’ conditions, including blood glucose strips for sexual impotence and special diabetic shoes for leg amputees, congressional investigators say.
Billions more in taxpayer dollars may have been wasted over the last decade because the government-run health program for the elderly and disabled paid out claims with blank or invalid diagnosis codes, such as a "?” and “zzzzz.” Medicare officials say even smiley-face icons could have been accepted.
The report by Republicans on a Senate Homeland Security subcommittee is the latest to detail lax oversight in the $400-billion program.
The panel’s review of millions of claims submitted by sellers of wheelchairs, drugs and other supplies from 2001 to 2006 found at least $1 billion in which the listed diagnosis code appeared to have little if any connection to the reimbursed medical item.
For example, Medicare paid millions of dollars without question to medical suppliers for the test strips, used almost exclusively for diabetics, based on non-diabetic diagnoses including typhoid and “psychosexual dysfunction.”