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GAO says Medicare bonuses are bogus


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gao-says-medicare-bonuses-are-bogusWashington Times:

Federal investigators said Monday that the administration is wasting billions on extra bonuses for health plans and should cancel them right away, fueling Republican complaints that President Obama is trying to postpone his health care law’s unpopular Medicare cuts until after the election.

The bonuses for high-quality Medicare Advantage plans were designed to drive down the government’s long-term costs by putting seniors in approved private plans that cut their out-of-pocket costs in exchange for limits on care and choice. But the Government Accountability Office report says the bonuses will cost the government $8.3 billion over the next decade, almost three times what was intended.

The GAO says the Obama administration overextended the pilot program, and thus it isn’t likely to give the government useful information on how best to improve coverage for seniors, as the administration claimed.

“The design of the demonstration precludes a credible evaluation of its effectiveness” in determining “whether a scaled bonus structure leads to” better health care for seniors, the GAO says.

While the report by Congress‘ nonpartisan investigative arm prompted a quick White House response, Republicans accused the administration of using the bonus program not as a tool to encourage the best private insurance plans for seniors, but as a way to expand the number of bonuses and thus hide the impact of unpopular Medicare cuts at a politically awkward time.

“The Obama administration seems to be using a technicality to sidestep Congress and write itself a blank check to spend more money for political purposes leading into this year’s elections,” said Sen. Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee. “This is simply unacceptable. The White House does not have the authority to green light spending on whatever program it wants.”


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