Conservative Groups Fight Shameless Waste in Medicare

Three leading conservative groups are leading the fight against a quiet effort by the Obama administration to shield politically powerful healthcare interests from fiscal accountability.

Americans for Tax Reform (ATF), headed by founder Grover Norquist, the lobbying arm of Citizens against Government Waste (CAGW), and the National Taxpayers Union (NTU) joined in a recent letter denouncing Obama’s stealth campaign to enable Medicare fraud.

At issue is a recent regulation preventing auditors from reviewing more than half of one percent of available documents from hospitals, pharmacies and other companies that bill the government billions each year.

“We vigorously oppose these short-sighted and blatantly wasteful policies,” the groups wrote, noting that, in contrast to the Obama administration’s giveaway, government watchdogs have been sounding the alarm about the vast sums of money being wasted in recent years.

Under federal laws designed by Congress to provide a modicum of financial accountability to government’s single largest expenditure, private auditors that help the government recoup fraudulent payments are awarded a commission proportional to the amount the government recovers.

The program, called the Recovery Audit Contractors (RAC), is one of the few success stories of government clawing back waste, fraud and abuse. For example, since 2006, RACs have saved taxpayers more than $10 billion.

It’s for exactly this reason that politically-connected hospitals and other entrenched interests have waged the K Street equivalent of a Holy War against the program. Groups opposed to fiscal accountability have worked tirelessly to undermine the RACs.

The Obama administration has been a willing partner to what is essentially a sophisticated criminal enterprise, with powerful hired guns helping water down regulations, paving the way for the fraudulent payments to continue padding the margins of powerful healthcare companies.

Even so, Obama’s latest move to limit the RACs to reviewing only .5 percent documents is especially audacious. To put that number in context, reviewing a company’s financials from .5 percent of its documents is like trying to drive a car with a one-second glance at the road every two minutes.

ATR’s, CAGW’s, and NTU’s efforts to draw attention to the issue could prove critical in the fight however. Conservative Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee Orrin Hatch has taken up the fight as well.

In a campaign season that is underscoring voters’ distaste with business as usual in Washington, “just trust us” accounting rules for Obama’s healthcare cronies is not going to fly.