Electronic Medicare system may lose millions
- By Judi Hasson
- Jul 12, 2000
Medicare may lose $140 million annually in earned interest if a system is
created to pay doctors more quickly, the General Accounting Office warned
Congress on Tuesday.
Looking at the benefits and problems of modernizing Medicare's payment system,
GAO told the House Government Reform Committee's Information and Technology
Subcommittee that a faster turnaround may benefit health care providers,
but it will hurt the government, which makes money by delaying payments.
Legislation moving through Congress calls for developing a new architecture
to speed up the processing of Medicare payments, inform doctors exactly
what is covered and allow for electronic payment of claims.
GAO said that the government could lose even more than the estimated $140
million annually if the average turnaround time drops below five days.
"Consequently, a decrease in interest earnings could prompt the need for
additional appropriations or increases in beneficiaries' premiums to compensate
for the interest that the trust fund would otherwise have earned," GAO said.
Gary Christoph, the CIO for the Health Care Financing Administration, which
administers the health care program for the elderly and disabled, also told
the committee that doctors may face the additional cost of paying for an
electronic system to process claims.
"We must remember the lessons of past efforts at our agency and others in
attempting to build a single, "big-bang system,' [and instead] plan our
modernization carefully, proceed incrementally and build modularly," Christoph
Nevertheless, Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) co-sponsor of the bill, said it
is time to build an infrastructure that would process the "vast number of
basic transactions that now clog the pipeline and drain scarce health care