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Embarking On Waste

The news in the past 24 hours highlights the contradictions unfolding in the debate over the nationalization of health care.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) persisted in his call for the ineptly named “public option” though he suggested this afternoon a Senate bill could include an opt-out provision for the states: no state would be compelled to participate in the public option, though each state must pass legislation explicitly deciding so. Some twist on the Tenth Amendment.

Whether one believes increasing the government’s take of the health care system is appropriate is immaterial to the inescapable correlation of fraud to public sector health programs.

Last night, CBS News’ “60 Minutes” aired a feature on the Medicare fraud industry — claiming that some $60 billion is stolen from taxpayers each year stemming from organized criminal activities. The $60 billion is debatable and may be low.

Leading health care expert Jim Frogue of the Center for Health Transformation tags the number at over $100 billion, maybe as high as $120 billion. Others estimate the fraud could be much higher.

A white paper released today by Thomson Reuters estimates health care fraud to be $125 billion to $175 billion each year, or 19% of all health care waste; the report also claims that another $100 billion to $150 billion is wasted on administrative inefficiency — redundant paperwork.

So while the United States Senate keeps moving headlong toward more government involvement in health care, current government health programs are riddled with waste, fraud and abuse to a degree that could actually fund the $829 billion bill before the Senate.

The government’s role will almost certainly increase, unless Harry Reid’s bill is defeated. If it passes, fraud will metastasize and kill the patient.

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