I think elected officials often hold bad news until after an election cycle. And it just makes sense. If voters were bombarded with negative news just prior to an election, you and I both know the results would be different. But those who control the information often control the outcome. So what else is new?
So let me pose this question. If a federally-funded, taxpayer-supported program reported $20 billion in erroneous payments, wouldn't you be upset? Well that's the amount of overpayments made in the Medicare program last year alone. Let me restate that just in case you're confused. Our government forked over $20 billion in payments on Medicare last year that were primarily for procedures that were medically unnecessary.
Now for those of us who argue that we need more control over spending and not more taxes, this is our showcase example - though there are many others.
A new report out this week shows that the Medicare program had almost a 10 percent error rate and that comes directly out of your pocket. If you realize that we baby boomers are about to grow the Medicare program substantially, you get a glimpse of the problem.
I have always thought that in life, there are times when the problem is simply too large for a solution. That may seem like a defeatist attitude but who cares?
Medicare, which is the government health program for older and disabled workers, paid more than one billion claims last year. No one can get a real grasp on something that large. And with overpayments and fraud accounting for nearly 10 percent of those claims, the money can evaporate rapidly.
A leading senator called the issue "an unacceptable problem." Well golly, that's a no-brainer. What we need are solutions and that will take a fiscal watchdog like none other.
I don't think the issue is one of fraud. I think the system and the bureaucracy are so large that we currently are overwhelmed. And that translates into $20 billion a year of your taxes going to providers for unnecessary medical procedures.
I think President Bush should appoint a new cabinet-level post devoted solely to eliminating waste in government. And if you think someone is currently watching your taxes, this report proves they are not doing much of a job. The waste in the health care industry - both intentional and otherwise - will make the Defense Department's $800 hammers look like petty cash. If we don't take control of this runaway spending, we'll doom future generations.