Fraudulent claims to Medicare, housing subsidies and unemployment are costing American taxpayers an estimated $35 billion annually. But wait, there's more. The bogus claims numbers for Medicaid are not in yet but they are expected to add substantially to the fraud dollars. Put it all together and you have well over $50 billion annually that is flowing out of taxpayers' pockets because of illegal claims. That may not solve the budget crunch but it sure would help.
Missouri, to our great credit, is one of only three states who have thus far said they will help the federal government in collecting or eliminating these phony claims. Other states are expected to come on board once there is a final agreement with the feds on just how to pay the cost of tracking the recipients of these bogus claims.
Illegal Medicare claims alone total over $13 billion while illegal earned income tax credits have siphoned another $9 billion from taxpayers. The feds actually are afraid to figure the final tally because several social benefit programs have thus far been unable to verify their phony numbers.
In a lesson for all taxpayers, the earned income credit fraud alone may be as much as a third of the total funding for the program. That's because low income wage earners often under-report income or provide incorrect information on children. Can you imagine a federal benefit program that acknowledges that a full third of their payments may be illegal? That clearly calls for immediate action.
Housing subsidies may be going to almost 20 percent of recipients who do not actually qualify. And keep in mind, as I mentioned earlier, Medicaid numbers are not yet in and they are expected to provide the largest bombshell of all.
The feds say a lack of internal controls is to blame. But it's evident that some federal programs are so large and so cumbersome that fraud is all but guaranteed. As baby boomers age and swell the ranks of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, the problem is expected to grow substantially.
It's time for tighter controls and more accountability. And if the current Congress cannot grasp that issue, then perhaps it's time we elect a Congress that can address the problem of fraud. Until we make this effort, tax dollars sorely needed for other items will end up in the hands of undeserving recipients. That's both a shame and a crime.