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Bad Cop


A kind reader sent me this, from today’s Topeka Capital-Journal:

Sebelius said during a Senate hearing in Washington, D.C., that she was prepared to wage a crusade as secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services against corruption in Medicaid and Medicare. About $70 billion spent each year on federal health care programs such as Medicaid and Medicare is lost to fraud.

“There’s a new sheriff in town,” the Democratic governor told the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. “I intend to take this very, very seriously.”

Sounds like a lame line from a spaghetti western. In fact, as Tim Carpenter, the Cap-Journal reporter, observes, Sebelius did nothing to curb fraud in Kansas, where there are approximately 304 million fewer people to worry about.

A state representative, Brenda Landwehr, described the problem to Carpenter:

Kansas Health Policy Authority administrators and board members appointed by Sebelius undermined effectiveness of an inspector general’s office created by the Legislature to ferret out fraud in the state’s $2.4 billion Medicaid program.

“What happened? We had an agency that worked to stifle what the Legislature wanted. What are they covering up?” Landwehr said.

Robin Kempf, the first inspector general, resigned in October and hasn’t been replaced by KHPA. She said KHPA officials interfered with her first audit, limited her access to the general public and legislators, and controlled her capacity to seek legal advice…

This scrutiny of KHPA followed a 2008 state audit describing $13 million in “suspicious claims” paid by Medicaid over a two-year period in Kansas. In one instance, the audit report says, program administrators paid a doctor $941 for a Caesarean section when the patient was an 8-year-old boy. Issues of overbilling by physicians and patients receiving excessive amounts of prescription drugs were raised by auditors.

Emphasis added at no extra charge.

Of course, to be fair, there may be more to the story. For instance, maybe they charge more for Caesarians if the patient’s a woman. Otherwise, anytime you can get a Caesarian for less than a grand sounds like a bargain to me.

Unless, of course, the doctor is Sebelius’s political bankroller, George Tiller.


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