Medicare paid millions to dead people, illegal immigrants

Font Size:

New reports from the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General reveal that Medicare wrongly paid out millions of dollars in benefits to dead patients, illegal immigrants and dead doctors.

According to the reports in 2011 Medicare paid $23 million in services for dead patients, spent $25 million on dead doctors between 2009-2011, and provided $29 million in prescription drugs for illegal immigrants from 2009-2011.

Under federal law, none of these categories of people are eligible for Medicare benefits or payments.

The IG reports that from 2009-2011, more than 4,100 illegal immigrants were able to make drug benefit claims, because while the agency does have controls in place to prevent illegal immigrants from making Medicare claims, it did not have policies for prescription drug coverage. CMS agreed to put controls in place to prevent illegal immigrants from receiving benefits.

CMS also agreed to work to prevent and recover benefits provided to dead beneficiaries.

“The CMS is committed to preventing or recovering Medicare payments made on behalf of deceased beneficiaries. CMS has implemented safeguards to address this vulnerability,” Marilyn Tavenner, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services administrator wrote in response to the report about dead patient payments. CMS agreed with all four of the IG’s recommendations.

And, according to a letter from HHS to Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn, of the $25 million paid out to dead doctors over a three year period, $8.2 million was paid out to doctors at least one year after the doctor’s death. HHS said that claims to dead doctors amounted to a small percentage of claims.

The reports come as HHS is under fire for its bundled rollout of Obamacare.

“Awarding benefits to the deceased is dead wrong,” Coburn’s letter read. “I am particularly concerned about this latest development because, despite being notified of this problem five years ago, the administration continues to pay dead doctors.”

Follow Caroline on Twitter