Senate Special Committee on Aging addresses Medicare, Medicaid fraud in special hearing

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U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL)
U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL)
The U.S Senate Special Committee on Aging met Wednesday to discuss prevention of Medicare and Medicaid fraud, which costs taxpayers more than $60 billion a year, according to Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL), ranking member of the committee.

"Entitlement fraud is out of control and we have 60 billion reasons why it needs to be addressed," Martinez said in a statement following the hearing.

Martinez chaired the meeting, which brought together Daniel R. Levinson, inspector general at the Department of Health and Human Services, along with U.S. attorneys and businessmen from the healthcare field. Some of the conversations focused on Florida, which, according to witnesses, has a significant amount of fraud. R. Alexander Acosta, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida at the U.S. Department of Justice, told the committee that his district prosecuted 245 individuals in 2008 for defrauding Medicare and Medicaid of nearly $800 million.

James Frogue, project director for the Center for Health Transformation, made some recommendations for reducing fraudulent spending and overall costs to Medicare and Medicaid. Among them: expand the use of the medical home model, particularly for seniors with one or more chronic condition; provide Medicare beneficiaries with cash incentives to maintain a healthy lifestyle; provide seniors on Medicare with a unique ID number, independent of their social security number; and allow seniors to travel to another city to receive non-emergency surgery if that facility will charge the government less money.