Green Room

Waste, fraud and abuse

posted at 11:33 am on November 18, 2009 by

Every time some report comes out about it, the White House gets all wee-wee’d up. No different this time:

The federal government made $98 billion in improper payments in fiscal 2009, and President Obama will issue an executive order in coming days to combat the problem, his budget director announced Tuesday.

The 2009 total for improper payments — from outright fraud to misdirected reimbursements due to factors such as an illegible doctor’s signature — was a 37.5 percent increase over the $72 billion in 2008, according to figures provided by Peter Orszag, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget.

Sheldon Richman says sarcastically “Yes, a well-worded executive order should do the trick.” $24 billion of the improper payments came from Medicare according to this report; another report over the weekend suggested Medicare lost $47 billion. But the Feds are now saying they are going to count as improper incomplete or illegible documentation, which the Bush administration did not. This then permits them to “multiply by 10 the number of agents and prosecutors targeting fraud in Miami, Los Angeles and other strategic cities where tens of billions of dollars are believed to be lost each year.” These will be claimed as savings … which will be spent on expanded coverage.

Got that? Define a scribble as fraud, hire more government workers, get doctors to reduce scribbling, and claim savings of $9.7 billion. (The extra $1.3 billion is payroll for those new prosecutors and agents making our health care experience better.)

No word on how many agents and prosecutors will be used to find phantom districts receiving $6.4 billion in stimulus cash. Perhaps we should get another executive order wherein Obama calls for the elimination of phantom districts. Imagine the savings!

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I was thinking the “improper” payment was more like
800 billion.

elderberry on November 18, 2009 at 3:22 PM

Only $98 billion?

Some years ago I remember the GAO admitting they “lost” between 8 and 10 percent of the money each year; they didn’t know where the money went. For last fiscal year, that would be between 216 and 270 billion dollars.

$98 billion is 3.6 percent of the current budget. Specific departments are named with amounts to arrive at the 98 billion dollar figure. This money is not “lost” in the sense they don’t know where it went. I am sure that EVERY place federal funds go will have money that was distributed improperly.

Take that $98 billion, multiply it by at least 5 to cover the other departments. Add that to the amount the GAO “loses” (split the difference at 9 percent), then add in the $787 billion “stimulus” money (I consider that improperly spent money, seeing as how it hasn’t done anything except increase our tax burden). That adds up to a little over $1.5 trillion dollars this past fiscal year that is likely improperly used.

Perhaps I am being a bit (or a lot) cynical, but I have absolutely no faith in the federal government actually reporting the absolute and full truth about every buck they steal and spend.

JohnTheBuilder on November 18, 2009 at 5:17 PM