Watchdog: Follow the Money

Here's where $14 billion of taxpayer money for Medicaid went

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Medicaid wrongly paid out more than $14 billion last year to managed care organizations, often for treatments or services that were not necessary, never performed or weren't eligible for coverage.

That's according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office.

For comparison, $14 billion is the cost of the new airport planned for Beijing, China. It's also how much the U.S. government has spent training Iraq's military since 2003.

MCOs, which allow Medicaid beneficiaries to get their care though state-run programs are rapidly increasing in popularity through the expansion of Medicaid. The amount of annual improper payments could increase because of Obamacare, GAO found.

The "size and diversity" of the MCOs have put both state and federal governments at odds on how to oversee the payments, the report said.

Specifically, the wrong payments made were for treatments or services not covered, not necessary, or billed for but never provided, GAO found.

States that expand Medicaid programs under Obamacare will receive a 100 percent reimbursement from the federal government for MCOs for the next two years, the report said.

Given that state and federal governments have recovered "only a small portion" of the wrongly paid money, unless they ramp up their oversight of MCOs, even more Medicare dollars will be "vulnerable to improper payments," GAO said.

States were also under-reporting to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid how much money they recovered when they realized they'd made these undeserved payments, GAO revealed.

In 2013 alone, Medicaid covered almost 72 million Americans. The program costs American taxpayers more than $430 billion annually.

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Kelly Cohen

Staff Writer
The Washington Examiner

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