Thursday, May 21, 2009

Much Ado About Nothing and Very Little Ado About Something

Whenever the subject of disability benefits comes up, there's a lot of screaming about "fraud". In fact, after a lengthy and expensive investigation, Connecticut found a whopping six cases of disability fraud in the state; not likely they'll ever recoup the cost of rooting out that fraud through the savings of terminating half a dozen people's meager benefits.
I've seen people bedridden and without understandable speech denied disability benefits because some bureaucrat decided there had to be some job they could do. So I'm not convinced there are able-bodied people wrongly getting SSDI. Certainly, there are people like me who "look" healthy on the outside but have disabilities you can't see (or can only see on bad days) – 96% of disabilities are invisible.
But a nationwide task force to combat an estimated $60 billion (with a B) a year in Medicare/Medicaid fraud draws little notice. Assuming an average SSDI benefit of $1000/month (less than minimum wage), you'd have to find 5 million of us little people defrauding Disability to achieve that kind of savings.
Medicare/Medicaid fraud is not perpetrated by people claiming to be poor and disabled when they're not. These are fraudulent claims made by health care providers. It's doctors/hospitals who overbill, medical equipment supply companies who bill for equipment never delivered, even major corporations – Eli Lilly repaid $1.4B on claims related to "improper marketing" of one of its drugs. They're not getting a below-poverty-level SSDI check, they're getting six figures, seven figures, however much fraudulent billing they need to submit to maintain their luxurious lifestyle, which is a far cry from the average SSDI recipient who barely keeps a roof over his/her head and minimal food on the table.
But apparently, "the rich get richer" isn't as worthy of irate public rants as the concept that a few poor people might be getting a couple hundred a month to pay rent instead of living (and dying) in the streets. Rants which sometimes come from the very people who are themselves committing fraud on a more massive scale than I, as a disabled person, would ever be able to.

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