The Obama administration has launched a crackdown on tens of thousands of illegal immigrants who have been receiving Medicare benefits illegally.
A 1996 law stipulated that immigrants could not receive federal benefits "if they are unlawfully present in the United States." But countless immigrants have been getting Medicare benefits because the agency had not updated its protocols to enforce the law, according to The New York Times.
Now in new regulations, and under President Barack Obama’s budget for 2015, illegal immigrants would be removed from Medicare rolls while only people in the United States lawfully will obtain benefits for health services and prescription drug plans.
However, the cost of savings to the government by having illegals "involuntarily disenrolled" will be just $67 million over five years, a small amount when compared to the $70 billion the system will spend this year on Medicare drug benefits alone.
The Times reported that the cost of Medicare drug benefits will increase to $170 billion in 10 years. And although the number of people on Medicare is currently 52 million, that figure will soar to 70 million in 2024.
Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General Daniel Levinson said Medicare had forked out tens of millions of dollars a year to hospitals, doctors, nursing homes, and pharmacies for services to illegal immigrants.
Levinson also said that the Medicare agency and private Medicare Advantage plans had been incorrectly giving drug benefits to illegal immigrants and had made little effort to prevent their improper drug claims, The Times reported.
Jenny Rejeske, a health policy analyst at the National Immigration Law Center, a legal advocacy group, told the newspaper: "There’s no suggestion of fraud here. The real fraud in Medicare is by healthcare providers. Payments for immigrants are just a drop in the bucket compared with provider fraud."
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