Obama administration steps up efforts to curb fraud and waste

Since the launch of the Campaign to Cut Waste two years ago, the Obama administration has saved more than $20 billion in misspent dollars and continues to crack down on waste, fraud and abuse, administration officials said.

Officials from the departments of Health and Human Services, Treasury and Justice hosted Dec. 13 a conference call with reporters to discuss progress and new initiatives in the Campaign to Cut Waste. It was in November 2009 that President Barack Obama signed an executive order that detailed steps to eliminate government waste and directed federal agencies to prevent $50 billion in improper payments by the end of 2012. The executive order also set goals to cut Medicare fee-for-service errors in half, and recapture $2 billion in overpayments to contractors.

Since the issuing of the executive order, agencies have avoided making improper payments, and cuts in payment errors in Medicare, Medicaid, Pell Grants and food stamps have also helped fuel the savings.

But the administration is looking for more ways to cut waste. Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Neal Wolin said U.S. Mint would suspend the production of presidential dollar coins for circulation, saving taxpayers at least $50 million per year in production and storage costs. More than 40 percent of the $1 coins that have been issued have been returned to the Federal Reserve, because as soon as the coins come out, interest declines, Wolin said.

In 2011, DOJ recovered more than $2.9 billion in health care fraud alone, the department said. Prescription drug fraud and “doctor shopping” especially plague the health care system, and the HHS’ new guidance tells prescription drug plans to withhold payment on suspicious claims, said Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who called the Campaign to Cut Waste "a historic effort" to reduce government waste.

The guidance to prescription drug plans also explains how tools such as prior authorization, retrospective medical review, and prescribing for less than 30 days can be used to decrease fraud. Sebelius also said that it will be easier for consumers and health care plans to report health care fraud to HHS and law enforcement, but did not provide further details.


About the Author

Camille Tuutti is a former FCW staff writer who covered federal oversight and the workforce.


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