Medicare Overpaid $251 Million in 18 Months for Drugs

Medicare Overpaid $251 Million in 18 Months for Drugs

By Ciro Scotti

By reimbursing certain drug providers based on outdated pricing, Medicare has squandered millions of dollars that could have been saved if the recommendations of a government watchdog had been followed.

As reported by The Washington Examiner, the Office of the Inspector General for the Health and Human Services Dept. found that Medicare has continued to pay providers of infusion drugs, which are delivered through IV pumps, at higher prices than necessary. HHS is paying providers based on 2003 prices when the drugs were more expensive--this despite warnings from the IG, most recently in February, 2013.

“Medicare payment amounts for infusion drugs…substantially exceeded the estimated acquisition costs,” according to findings reported on the IG’s website.

The IG said that had its recommendations been implemented, $251 million would have been saved over an 18-month period.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) apparently ignored the IG when it proposed that the agency push legislation that would have brought the method of reimbursement for infusion drugs in line with the process for other pharmaceuticals. As an alternative, the IG recommended that the CMS employ competitive bidding to supply infusion drugs.

 “CMS partially concurred with the first recommendation, but has not taken steps toward seeking legislation,” The IG’s report said. “CMS concurred with the second recommendation but said subsequently that…infusion drugs will not be included in competitive bidding until at least 2017.”

So presumably the overpaying won’t stop anytime soon.

Chart of the Day: Long Way to Go on Coronavirus Testing

Healthcare workers with ChristianaCare test people with symptoms of the coronavirus in a drive-thru in the parking lot of Chase
Jennifer Corbett
By The Fiscal Times Staff

The White House on Friday unveiled plans for a new effort to ramp up testing for Covid-19, which experts say is an essential part of limiting the spread of the virus. This chart from Vox gives a sense of just how far the U.S. has to go to catch up to other countries that are dealing with the pandemic, including South Korea, the leading virus screener with 3,692 tests per million people. The U.S., by comparison, has done about 23 tests per million people as of March 12.

After Spending $2 Billion, Air Force Bails Out on Planned Upgrades of B-2 Bombers

The B-2 Spirit stealth bomber flies over the Missouri Sky after taking off from the Whiteman Air For..
© Hyungwon Kang / Reuters
By The Fiscal Times Staff

The Air Force has scrapped a planned upgrade of its B-2 stealth bomber fleet — even after spending $2 billion on the effort — because defense contractor Northrup Grumman didn’t have the necessary software expertise to complete the project on time and on budget, Bloomberg’s Anthony Capaccio reports, citing the Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer.

Ellen Lord, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, told reporters that the nearly $2 billion that had already been spent on the program wasn’t wasted because “we are still going to get upgraded electronic displays.”

Big Hurdle for Sanders’ Plan to Cancel Student Debt

Chip East / REUTERS
By The Fiscal Times Staff

Bernie Sanders wants to eliminate $1.6 trillion in student debt, to be paid for by a tax on financial transactions, but doing so won’t be easy, says Josh Mitchell of The Wall Street Journal.  

The main problem for Sanders is that most Americans don’t support the plan, with 57% of respondents in a poll last fall saying they oppose the idea of canceling all student debt. And the politics are particularly thorny for Sanders as he prepares for a likely general election run, Mitchell says: “Among the strongest opponents are groups Democrats hope to peel away from President Trump: Rust Belt voters, independents, whites, men and voters in rural areas.”

Number of the Day: $7 Million

NY mayor cites climate stance in endorsing Obama
By The Fiscal Times Staff

That’s how much Michael Bloomberg is spending per day in his pursuit of the Democratic presidential nomination, according to new monthly filings with the Federal Election Commission. “In January alone, Bloomberg dropped more than $220 million on his free-spending presidential campaign,” The Hill says. “That breaks down to about $7.1 million a day, $300,000 an hour or $5,000 per minute.”