WASHINGTON, March 10 (UPI) — U.S. President Barack Obama said Wednesday the healthcare system loses billions of dollars a year to fraud, waste, abuse and subsidies to insurance companies.
“Nowhere is reform more needed than when it comes to our healthcare system,” Obama said at a high school in suburban St. Louis.
“The healthcare system has billions of dollars that should go to patient care and they’re lost each and every year to fraud, to abuse, to massive subsidies that line the pockets of the insurance industry.”
He pointed to improper Medicare and Medicaid payments, which he said cost taxpayers $100 billion a year — more than the budgets of the Education Department and the Small Business Administration combined. “If we created a Department of Improper Payments,” the president said, “it would be one of the largest agencies in our government.”
The improper payments go to the wrong person, are sent for the wrong reason or are sent in the wrong amount, Obama said. Sometimes nobody’s checking to see where the money’s going; other times, it’s lost to “scam artists and fly-by-night operations,” he said.
Earlier Wednesday, Obama signed an order allowing government agencies to turn to private auditors to uncover fraudulent claims and payment errors. And he announced support for a bipartisan bill that would expand use of the audits.
He said the administration is combating wasteful and no-bid contracts through a new online database that also vets contractors.
Obama reiterated his call for quick congressional action on healthcare.
“What we’re proposing is a common-sense approach to protecting you from insurance company abuses and saving you money,” he said. “That’s the proposal, and it is paid for. And I believe that Congress owes the American people a final up-or-down vote on healthcare reform. The time for talk is over; it’s time to vote.”
Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.