Senate Dems want probe of Medicare contractors

A group of Democratic senators are asking the health department’s top investigator to examine Medicare contractors’ possible conflicts of interest.

Democratic Sens. Max Baucus (Mont.), Tom Carper (Del.) and Claire McCaskill (Mo.) on Tuesday called on the Health and Human Services Department’s inspector general to review Medicare contractors and their subsidiary relationships.

A survey conducted by staffers of several Senate committees raised concerns about the relationships between firms that approve and process Medicare reimbursement claims and those hired by the government to ensure the accuracy of the claims, the senators wrote. For example, in some cases, an oversight contractor was found to be the subsidiary of a company with a Medicare claims processing contract, the senators said.

“There would clearly be questions of impaired objectivity, or the appearance of impaired objectivity, when related companies are charged with both the administration of Medicare-related programs and oversight of that administration,” the letter read.
 
“We recognize that a conflict of interest does not necessarily mean fraudulent or improper activity is occurring,” the senators wrote. “However, this survey by our respective committee staffs strongly underscores the need for a more extensive review of relevant contracts to ensure compliance with federal regulations, and to promote a more efficient and transparent federal government.”

The Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Baucus, is one of three congressional panels to hold a hearing Wednesday on reducing fraud, waste and abuse in the Medicare program. HHS Inspector General Daniel Levinson will be at the Senate Finance hearing.