Uncle Sam made a whopping $115 billion in improper overpayments last year and lawmakers think that is just a fraction of what the federal government could be losing every year.
About half of the improper payments were made in the Medicare and Medicaid programs, with others from departments like Defense and unemployment insurance, due to shoddy spending and audit controls.
Remarkably, though, it could have been worse. Through a program they call the Campaign to Cut Waste, the Obama administration slashed $20 billion in additional overpayments that were scheduled to be paid out.
The issue takes center stage in Congress Tuesday when a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee opens a probe into federal misspending. According to Rep. Todd Platts, chair of the subcommittee on Government Organization, Efficiency and Financial Management, the problem boils down to bad management.
In his testimony for tomorrow’s hearing, Platts cites Office of Management and Budget reports that “high-error programs” include Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, unemployment insurance and the Earned Income Tax Credit. He also said that the $115 billion cited by the administration “is only an estimate; the total amount of improper payments is unknown.”
In a memo provided to Washington Secrets, the committee suggested that one answer is legislation proposed by Sen. Tom Carper, Delaware Democrat, that establishes a “Do Not Pay” list that would require agencies to check databases, including death lists, before issuing federal checks.
“Billions of taxpayer dollars are misspent every year through improper payments. The administration and agency leaders have made significant efforts to reduce improper payments and their work is both important and commendable,” Platts, a Pennsylvania Republican, said in his testimony set for delivery tomorrow. “However, we need more solutions to better protect taxpayer money.”