Grassley asks for inquiry into 'lavish' QIO conferences and spending

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Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-IA) has asked Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services officials to investigate the expenses for conferences and travel of quality improvement organizations (QIOs). He said he wants to ensure that Medicare dollars are not being used to fund the expensive retreats in exotic locales.

In a Jan. 4 letter to CMS Administrator Mark B. McClellan, Grassley asked for details on the costs of "lavish" conferences sponsored by Medicare contractors and for information on the travel of two CMS officials in charge of the QIOs.

Photographs of an annual QIO conference held at the Don CeSar Beach Resort near St. Petersburg, FL, raised questions about the funding, Grassley said.

The letter requested "a detailed accounting" of the costs and funding of conferences attended by QIO and CMS officials over the last four years. Grassley also asked for specific information on the amount and source of reimbursement for travel of Dr. William Rollow, the CMS official currently in charge of the QIO program, and his predecessor, Dr. Steven Jencks.

Last month, Grassley asked for an expanded probe of QIOs. He sent a letter to the New Jersey QIO asking why the contractor spent $100,000 on retreats for the directors in the Cayman Islands and California in 2003 and 2004. Medicare pays QIOs about $300 million a year to investigate complaints and improve nursing home care, as well as hospital and doctor care.

Grassley's Jan. 4 letter is available at