New Labor dashboard to cut waste, fraud

The White House and Labor Department have started a new online dashboard that identifies states with the highest rates of improper payments in their unemployment benefit programs. The dashboard, which looks like a map, shows 13 states made wrong payments at least 14 percent of the time over a three-year period.

Vice President Joe Biden announced the new online tracking system on Sept. 14 among several new programs aimed at reducing improper payments, both at Labor and in the Medicaid program. The wrong payments include both overpayments and underpayments.

The Unemployment Insurance Improper Payments by State color-coded dashboard map points to states with a high proportion of problems such as recipients continuing to receive payments after returning to work and employers failing to file documentation on time.

Related coverage:

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Six of those states with improper payment rates of 14 percent or more — Arizona, Colorado, Indiana, Louisiana, Virginia and Washington — are being targeted for special measures to reduce waste and fraud in those programs, Biden and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said.

Labor is working with those high-risk states to develop comprehensive turnaround plans, with help from high-achieving states, Solis said. The six states also will be subjected to additional monitoring and technical assistance until their improper payment rates fall below 10 percent for at least six months.

In addition, the department awarded nearly $92 million to 42 states to assist in improvements to the unemployment insurance program, including upgrades to IT to collect data and process claims.

The unemployment insurance system is a partnership between federal government and the states.

“States bear the responsibility of operating an efficient and effective benefits program, but as partners the federal government must be able to hold them accountable for doing so,” Solis said in a statement. “These new measures demonstrate our commitment to working closely with states to ensure the integrity of the system, turnaround underperforming programs and save taxpayer dollars.”

Biden, along with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, also announced plans to reduce fraud and waste in the Medicaid program by up to $2 billion over five years.

HHS published its final rule on Sept. 14 to create the Medicaid Recovery Audit Contractor Program, which was authorized under the health reform law of 2010. The program is similar to a Medicare recovery audit contractor program, which has recovered nearly $670 million to date in 2011. HHS officials project the new program will save $2.1 billion over the next five years, of which $900 million will be returned to states.

Under the programs, HHS hires contractors on a contingency basis to conduct audits of spending to identify and recover improper payments. The contractors retain a percentage of the recoveries.

“Today we are building on an already successful program that targets improper payments in our health care programs and recovers those dollars, making Medicare and Medicaid more reliable and responsible,” Sebelius said in a statement.

In a related development, Biden also directed federal agency heads to report back on wasteful and inefficient spending on travel, auto fleets, publications and office equipment, including cell phones and software, or any other inefficiencies identified by the departments.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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