USA Today: Accounting woes hurt Medicare’s tries to get lost money

Kelly Kennedy, USA TODAY 12:02 a.m. EDT July 2, 2013

WASHINGTON — The Medicare system may never collect more than $543 million in overpayments made in 2010, a federal inspector general’s report released Tuesday shows, because Medicare entered only a summary of each bill in its new system.

The new accounting system for the Center for Medicare Services (CMS) and systems used by Medicare contractors did not extract data automatically, the report said, so information about providers and contractors was lost. Medicare officials, the report said, determined it would require thousands of hours to re-enter data on health care providers into the new system.

The lack of accurate information also makes it difficult to determine where the errors were made, who might be defrauding the system and which providers have re-entered the system under a new name while still owing the government money, according to the report by the Department of Health and Human Services inspector general.

Overpayments occur when the government pays a provider too much after a billing error. There was a combined $9.6 billion in overpayments for Medicare Parts A and B in 2010.

The report found that Medicare provided detailed information on only seven of 39 delinquent contractors the inspector general asked for, or about $69 million of the unrecovered money. Some contractors told the inspector general that many providers aren’t notified of overpayments if the government doesn’t provide basic information, such as good mailing addresses for the providers.

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