Officials, legislators disagree over how best to fight Medicare fraud

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Which would more likely lead to a decrease in fraud and abuse in the Medicare program - more money or program reform? That was a point of debate this week between Bush administration officials and some members of Congress.

Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt asked the House Budget Committee for an additional $183 million in discretionary spending to fight fraud in the Medicare prescription drug benefit and Medicare Advantage programs and to improve oversight of Medicaid. But ranking committee member Paul D. Ryan (R-WI), countered that mandated reforms, rather than more funding, would help ensure the integrity of federal healthcare programs. The reforms would help ensure federal funds are spent wisely, he said.

Overall, the Bush administration has asked for $1.3 billion for the Health Care Fraud and Abuse Control program, which is run by HHS and the Justice Department. Leavitt spoke specifically about combating fraud among durable medical equipment providers.