A new report released by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Inspector General on Wednesday found that Medicare payments to health care providers for services delivered to 2,575 illegal immigrants totaled more than $91.6 million from the period of 2009 to 2011.
Federal law dictates that Medicare does not give payments for either group or patients, but the money was billed for roughly $33 million for inmate care and more than $91 million for illegal immigrant care over that three-year period. It also noted that agency officials didn’t order its contractors to recoup the lost money.
The report urged the federal government to implement a better system that would automatically flag charges for both inmates and illegal immigrants to cease unlawful payments before they are issued. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services already have a system, but it was deemed inefficient because it didn’t seize the unacceptable bills before they were paid.
“CMS’s records identified 29,185 beneficiaries who had been unlawfully present at some point during calendar years (CY) 2009 through 2011. We limited our review to 133,541 claims on behalf of 2,575 unlawfully present beneficiaries with $91,620,548 in associated Medicare payments,” the report stated.
In 2011, Medicare spending reached $549 billion and even though the report noted a significant sum, it has been argued that it is only a fraction of the entire annual budget. It also comes as President Barack Obama and his administration try to find savings and identifying Medicare fraud could save taxpayers about $60 billion per year.
In a statement released Thursday, the agency noted that it must improve its $77 million two-year-old system in order to catch fraudulent activities. It also noted that is initiating measures to help monitor and detect lost funds, which was commended by Delaware Democratic Senator Tom Carper, chairman of the Senate subcommittee on Federal Financial Management.
“For cases where Medicare is informed of patients’ unlawful presence after claims have been paid, we are working to implement a process for quickly and completely recouping these improper payments,” the agency said in its statement.
A 2010 study conducted by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), which is considered the first comprehensive look at the price of harboring illegal aliens, found that maintaining illegal immigrants in the United States is costing taxpayers $113 billion each year.
Another study by the group analyzed the costs in each state. It discovered that Washington State spent approximately $2.7 billion in 2011, while 115,000 illegal aliens cost the state and local Michigan governments nearly $1 billion.
FAIR broke it down in Michigan: K-12 education takes the largest share for spending on illegal immigrants, with $314.1 million. Other spending (state and local) includes: General ($225.3 million); Welfare ($142.6 million); Justice ($66 million); Limited English Proficiency (LEP) education ($63.2 million); Medicaid ($62.4 million); and SCHIP ($25.2 million).
During a 2008 Republican presidential debate, retired Texas Republican Congressman Ron Paul talked about how the federal government subsidizes illegal aliens through many of its welfare programs and subsidies.
“I see the immigration problem as a consequence of our welfare state. We encourage people not to work here, but the welfare we offer the people who come – they get free medical care,” said the three-time presidential candidate. “They get free education. They bankrupt our hospitals. Our hospitals are closing. And it shouldn’t be rewarded. That means you don’t give them citizenship. You can’t solve this problem until you get rid of the welfare state, because in a healthy economy, immigrants wouldn’t be a threat to us.”
Following the 2012 election, President Obama held a press conference at the White House where he veered toward an amnesty-friendly policy.
“I do think that there should be a pathway for legal status for those who are living in this country,” the president told reporters in November, adding that an increased Latino “sense of empowerment and civic participation is going to be powerful and good for the country.”