Three House Democrats have requested a congressional hearing to examine a new HHS inspector general's report that found wasteful spending, potentially fraudulent conduct and anti-competitive contracting in Medicare's Part D program.
Three House Dems ask for hearing on Medicare report
Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) and Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) have asked Reps. Joseph Pitts (R-Pa.) and Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), chairmen of the House Energy and Commerce Committee's health subcommittee and oversight and investigations subcommittee, respectively, to hold hearings on the report's findings. The three Democratic representatives asserted that the report shows that private health insurers offering the drug benefit are underreporting drug manufacturer rebates, which has resulted in billions of profits at the expense of taxpayers and Medicare beneficiaries.
In addition, the representatives said, the report describes rebate arrangements in which Medicare Part D sponsors were required to offer competitors products with higher copayments or exclude competitors products from their formulary altogether. "These arrangements appear to offer perverse incentives for Part D plan sponsors, providing them increased rebates in exchange for increasing costs or reducing the choice of available drugs for Medicare Part D enrollees," Waxman, Pallone and DeGette wrote in a letter to Pitts and Stearns.
The hearing request came on Friday, at the end of a week on Capitol Hill that devoted much time to probing Medicare fraud, waste and abuse. Earlier this week, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, introduced a bill called the "Strengthening Program Integrity and Accountability in Health Care Act of 2011," which would require—for the first time—that Medicare claims and payment data be made available to the public by provider name, in a way that is similar to other federal spending that is disclosed on www.USAspending.gov.
Also included in the bill are provisions that would give the government more time to pay Medicare providers if there is suspicion of fraud, waste and abuse; improve enforcement capabilities by expanding the range of individuals who are subject to penalties; and enhance coordination among federal agencies responsible for fighting medical identity theft.
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