Fraud and abuse helped boost Medicare spending on home health services 44% over five years as some providers exaggerated patients’ medical conditions and others billed for unnecessary services or care they did not provide, a Government Accountability Office report out Friday says. USA Today reports that the GAO reviewed home care payments from 2002 to 2006, when spending reached $13 billion. The number of Medicare enrollees using in-home services rose 17% during that period to 2.8 million.
Medicare pays for visits by nurses, aides, physical therapists and other medical professionals for homebound enrollees. They check and clean surgical wounds, give medications, provide physical therapy and assist with other skilled care. Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley says Medicare must strengthen its oversight. “Every home health care dollar that’s lost to fraud or improper payments is a dollar that doesn’t go to necessary care and a better quality of life for older Americans,” he says. “There’s no excuse for Medicare officials neglecting payment problems.”