When Medicare was facing an impossible $13 trillion funding gap, Congress opted for a bold fix: It handed over part of the program to insurance companies, expecting them to provide better care at a lower cost. The new program was named Medicare Advantage.
Nearly 15 years later, a third of all Americans who receive some form of Medicare have chosen the insurer-provided version, which, by most accounts, has been a success.
But now a whistle-blower, a former well-placed official at UnitedHealth Group, asserts that the big insurance companies have been systematically bilking Medicare Advantage for years, reaping billions of taxpayer dollars from the program by gaming the payment system.
The Justice Department takes the whistle-blower’s claims so seriously that it has said it intends to sue the whistle-blower’s former employer, UnitedHealth Group, even as it investigates other Medicare Advantage participants. The agency has until the end of Tuesday to take action against UnitedHealth.