Members of a Senate investigations panel upbraided the CMS for allowing medical equipment suppliers to collect millions of dollars in claims that were tied to deceased physicians.
A report released by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs permanent subcommittee on investigations estimates that Medicare may have paid as much as $92 million since 2000 on more than 500,000 claims containing the identifier numbers of deceased doctors.
We found that doctors who died one, five, even 10 years earlier, were listed on Medicare claims prescribing equipment supposedly ordered by them years after their death, said subcommittee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) in his opening statement. The CMS attempted to fix these types of problems in 2002, yet the subcommittees investigation shows the agency has failed in its effort to adequately monitor and audit the contractors who are paid to update physician ID numbers and process these types of claims, Levin said.
CMS Deputy Administrator Herb Kuhn said the agency has been taking steps to combat fraudulent billing, such as converting to a new physician ID system called the National Provider Identifier system and proposing a rule that would require medical equipment suppliers to maintain ordering and referring documentation received from physicians and other practitioners.
Levin and others on the panel were not satisfied with Kuhns answers. Simple software changes could have prevented this, Levin said. -- by Jennifer Lubell