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Senators Call for Probe of $10B Medicare Fund

Friday, 11 Nov 2011 08:53 PM

 

Republicans in the U.S. Senate want President Barack Obama to explain how his administration is spending $10 billion provided by the 2010 health overhaul law to improve the quality of medical care.

Three senators, Orrin Hatch of Utah, Michael Enzi of Wyoming, and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma asked for the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation to release the identity of its grant recipients and how it plans to spend the rest of its budget, according to a letter sent today to Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Funds are being spent “with little to no actual value provided,” the senators wrote.

The senators also requested an examination of the center’s activities by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress.

The center is testing and implementing “new ways to improve the quality, safety and affordability of care for Americans in Medicare and Medicaid,” Richard Sorian, a spokesman for Sebelius, said in an e-mail responding to the letter. The experiments represent “the most effective way to identify ways to curb the growth in health-care costs.”

Medicare is the U.S. health program for the elderly and disabled. Medicaid covers medical care for the poor.

The center funded an effort to reduce medical errors, a program to improve health care for “dual eligibles” poor enough to qualify for Medicare and Medicaid and a plan paying doctors and hospitals flat fees for treating patients, instead of separate payments for specific services.

An accounting of how much the center spent on each of its activities wasn’t available today, Sorian said.

The center, run by Richard Gilfillan, a former executive at Geisinger Health System in Danville, Pennsylvania, is also supervising creation of new coordinated-care groups called “accountable care organizations.” Hospitals participating in the accountable care program may win as much as $1.9 billion in bonus payments from Medicare if they can save the government money by streamlining care.


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