Federal authorities charged 107 doctors, nurses and social workers in seven cities with Medicare fraud Wednesday in a nationwide crackdown on unrelated scams that allegedly billed the taxpayer-funded program of $452 million — the highest dollar amount in a single Medicare bust in U.S. history.
It was the latest in a string of major arrests in the past two years as authorities have targeted fraud that’s believed to cost the government between $60 billion and $90 billion each year. Stopping Medicare’s budget from hemorrhaging that money will be key to paying for President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.
To say that previous administrations were lax in the oversight of this huge and important program would be an understatement. While the numbers of perpetrators caught in this recent sting might seem relatively small, and the dollar amounts recovered paltry compared to the billions transferred through Medicare, the message that fraud will not be tolerated acts as a strong deterrent: criminals will not be allowed to steal from Medicare.
During World War II an obscure Senator from Missouri was motivated to squeeze waste and corruption out of the US military and presented it as a patriotic mission for the salvation of western civilization. His image as an inveterate stalwart for justice was exactly what FDR needed in a running mate during the anguish of a two-theatre war in 1944... and he chose this small town haberdasher, Sen. Harry Truman, for Vice-President. The rest is history.
I maintain that if Congress were not so dysfunctional an ambitious legislator might take on the graft and corruption in Medicare as a patriotic mission that would benefit every American for generations. Maybe it's not as glamorous as cleaning up the military, and taking on entrenched moneyed interests may be dangerous politically, but imagine the legacy if such a job were done well.
In the absence of a forthright Congressman or Senator the President seems to be taking up the task, as well he should. After all, it is his job... a job that had been neglected for a long time.