Here’s something you don’t see much of on Capitol Hill these days: A large group of Senate and House leaders representing both political parties has asked the Government Accounting Office (GAO) to take a deeper look at how Medicare auditors work with contractors.
Sounds boring and bureaucratic, right? It is but it also goes to the heart of what congressional oversight is about – second-guessing how the executive branch is managing and spending the taxpayers’ money.
In this case, the second-guessing is determining whether the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS), which oversee the federal government central health care programs, have an effective plan for coordinating its own auditors’ work with those of its contractors in combating waste and fraud.
“Health care providers are responsible for interacting with, and responding to, each of these contractors. In order for this contractor oversight to at once be effective at detecting improper payments and not unnecessarily burdensome to providers, it must be undertaken subject to a coherent strategic plan, consistent standards and active coordination,” the group said in a joint letter to GAO Comptroller General Gene Dodaro.
“To this end, we ask that you undertake a study that focuses on coordination among contractor efforts and CMS efforts to oversee these contractors to ensure that they are working efficiently and effectively while guaranteeing that beneficiaries are receiving care to which they are entitled,” they said.
Signers of the letter include: Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, Housae Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-MI, Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Orrin Hatch, R-UT, Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Henry A. Waxman, D-CA, Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Charles E. Grassley, R-IA, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-OK, Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-FL, Sen. Tom Carper, D-DE, Rep. Diane DeGette, D-CO, Rep. Charles Boustany, R-LA, and Rep. John Lewis, D-GA.
Since congressmen often have an idea of what GAO will find when they request a probe by the congressional watchdog agency, and given the rarity of such bipartisan displays of concern, it might be worth keeping an eye on this one.
You can read the full letter here.