Billions in Medicare fraud – and the tort “reform” crowd opposes measures to fight it
Why does the tort “reform” movement want to make it harder to catch people who defraud Medicare?
WASHINGTON (AP) — The government paid more than $1 billion in questionable Medicare claims for medical supplies that showed little relation to a patient's condition, including blood glucose strips for sexual impotence and special diabetic shoes for leg amputees, congressional investigators say.
Billions more in taxpayer dollars may have been wasted over the last decade because the government-run health program for the elderly and disabled paid out claims with blank or invalid diagnosis codes, such as a "?" or "zzzzz." Medicare officials say even smiley-face icons could have been accepted.
One of the most effective ways of fighting government fraud is something known as a qui tam lawsuit. Qui tam is a shortened version of a Latin phrase that roughly means, “One who sues on behalf of himself and on behalf of the King.” A qui tam lawsuit is brought by an individual who believes someone has defrauded the government. If the individual wins, the defendant is ordered to reimburse the government, and the individual who brought the suit gets a portion of the fees.
Most qui tam lawsuits are brought under the federal False Claims Act, which allows the whistleblower to keep usually between 15% and 30% of the recovery. To be clear, the recovery is fraudulently-obtained taxpayer dollars. Yet the tort “reform” movement – which purports to act for the good of taxpayers – is very hostile to qui tam lawsuits. Instead of worrying about the billions of dollars stolen from taxpayers, the “reformers” worry that the lawsuits are too costly to the entities that committed fraud, and that lawyers are too eager to file these lawsuits.
I’m short on time now, but expect more coverage of qui tam later in the week. Between now and then, ask yourself why the “reform” movement is so concerned with protecting companies that steal from taxpayers.