Thursday, July 9, 2009

Another Case of Fraud

Another $5M Medicare fraud sweep today in California. 
To put that in perspective, it would take the average disabled person over 400 years to collect that much in Disability benefits.  Yet, it's the victims, disabled people who are continually suspected of fraud and threatened with loss of their benefits for occasionally being able to leave home to go to the pharmacy or some community activity (aha!, you can't be disabled if you're able to leave the house once a week for an hour or two!), while doctors and medical corporations get away with millions in fraudulent claims. 
Trust me, the average Disability check is less than a minimum wage paycheck.  You have to wait two years after being approved for SSDI before you can get Medicare.  No one in their right mind would quit even the worst job in order to spend the rest of their life below the poverty level.  There may be people committing fraud to get union disability benefits that pay nearly 100% of their prior paycheck, but it just doesn't pay to pretend to be disabled if all you're getting is SSDI (which is about 1/3 to 1/4 of your prior paycheck).
Similarly, In Home Support Services caregivers are paid as little as possible, and their hours are severely limited (typically less than they actually spend giving care) but because many of them are "employed" by family members, there are constant claims of fraud and over-reporting work hours, while a blind eye is turned toward the big bucks fraud of charging the government for medical procedures never performed or medical equipment never delivered.
Putting an end to Medicare fraud by doctors and corporations would save the government far more money than rooting out the handful of people who are questionably collecting SSDI.  But it's the poor disabled people who are always suspect and the rich-getting-richer who are considered above suspicion.
It's time for the same parity to exist in this field as has just been demonstrated in criminal court, where zillionaire Bernie Madoff was given a sentence of 150 years.  On a dollar-for-dollar proportionate basis, that's still a lot less than the average purse snatcher, but at least he didn't get off scot-free, or with a penalty of paying a fine of a fraction of his ill-gotten gains.  Let medical providers who commit fraud be sentenced to life in prison.  Someone recently suggested a convicted doctor could spend his sentence providing free medical care to his fellow inmates; an admirable suggestion, which would save the State the cost of hiring a doctor.


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