Sen. Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) has asked the Government Accountability Office to evaluate the Indian Health Service's policy for writing off payments from third-party insurance and health maintenance organizations as "uncollectible."
In a letter to GAO Comptroller General David Walker, Baucus said the Indian Health Care Improvement Act provides authority for the IHS to collect reimbursement for healthcare provided to American Indians and Alaskan natives from private insurance companies and other sources. Since the enactment of this provision, "IHS has had a very difficult time collecting from private insurance companies despite enhancements in its computerized system, the Resource Patient and Management System," Baucus wrote, adding that he understands the IHS has engaged in a practice of regularly writing off claims as uncollectible when the claims are denied or when collection would involve considerable effort.
"Given the size of the IHS system and the number of patients served, I am concerned that the IHS may be potentially undercollecting hundreds of millions of dollars from private sources, and that taxpayers are picking up the tab for the difference," Baucus said in the letter.
In addition to requesting the study, Baucus asked the GAO to make any necessary recommendations to improve IHS accounting systems, policies and collection procedures. At deadline, a representative for the IHS was not available for comment.