Medicare Paid Millions for Prescription Drugs to Prisoners

Tuesday, 11 Feb 2014 06:42 AM

By Elliot Jager

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Medicare inappropriately reimbursed $11.7 million to so-called sponsors for drugs provided to prison inmates, The Washington Times reported.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) make regular payments to sponsors for providing prescription drug coverage to beneficiaries under Medicare Part D.

According to the latest report issued by the Office of the Inspector General (IG) for the Department of Health and Human Services, covering the 2006 to 2010 period, sponsors that gave medications to prisoners were improperly reimbursed for their Medicare claims.

A 2013 IG report had previously determined that Medicare wrongly reimbursed $33.6 million for prisoner medical treatment to providers, the Times reported.

Prisoners are generally not eligible for federal healthcare benefits.

The IG found that CMS "inappropriately" processed reimbursement requests for prescription drugs provided to prisoners, costing taxpayers almost $12 million for the four years under review.

In some cases, the IG's office was unable to verify whether beneficiaries were in prison so did not question the reimbursements associated with them, according to the report.

CMS did not provide enough information to sponsors "that would have allowed them to readily and accurately verify a beneficiary's incarceration status and dates of incarceration," according to the IG report.

Officials at CMS said in response that they were dependent on federal, state, and local prison authorities, as well as the Social Security Administration, to tell them if someone was in incarcerated.

CMS agreed it needed to do a better job, but said it would be unable to recoup the wrongful payments based on the information it had.

Elsewhere, prisoners have received various benefits not due to them. For instance, state of Louisiana investigators found inmates were inappropriately given $1 million in food stamps. In New Jersey, prisoners were provided with $23 million in unemployment benefits; in Illinois, the prisoners received $2 million in unemployment benefits, and in Wisconsin the tab came to  $600,000, according to the Times.

The chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., called for a crackdown on inefficiencies that put tax dollars at risk. He is part of a bipartisan group of lawmakers who have introduced legislation to improve CMS oversight capabilities.

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