IRS Inspector General Says Obamacare Subsidies Susceptible to Fraud

The Internal Revenue Service
(IRS) doesn’t have a strategy to address fraud related to
Obamacare’s subsidies, according to a report by the tax agency’s
Inspector General (IG). 

Under the law, individuals with incomes between 133 and 400
percent of the poverty line, or roughly $90,000 a year for a family
of four, are eligible for tax credits and subsidies to offset the
cost of private health insurance. By 2022, those subsidies are
expected to cost taxpayers about $808 billion,
to a March 2012 projection by the Congressional
budget office.

But according to the IG
, dated September 2013 but released in a partially
redacted version to the public this week, the IRS hasn’t put in
place the necessary checks to ensure that the the information
technology systems that calculate and manage the subsidies aren’t
subject to fraud. “A fraud mitigation strategy is not in place to
guide Affordable Care Act systems development, testing, initial
deployment, and long-term operations,” the report says. The tax
agency’s current protocols “do not address management’s
responsibility for managing, monitoring, and mitigating fraud risk
with the development of new information systems for the ACA.
Further, the ACA Program has not yet completed a fraud mitigation
strategy to guide ongoing systems development.” 

“With the healthcare exchanges open for business, it is
imperative that the IRS ensure the accuracy and completeness of
Premium Tax Credit and Advanced Premium Tax Credit calculations,”
said Russell George, the tax administration inspector general,

according to The Hill
, “and ensure the security
of information provided by taxpayers to the IRS and subsequently
transmitted to other government entities.” 

If other high-cost government-run health programs are any
indication, there’s a significant risk of large-scale fraud, abuse,
and waste.

Medicare’s payment system is rife with bad payments, some of
which are billing errors and some of which are outright fraud. A
2011 review by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), for
example, estimated that the system made some $48 billion in
improper payments each year. That’s about 10 percent of Medicare’s
budget. The problem has always been that there are very few checks
on who can bill the system. As I noted in a
2011 story
on fraud in government health systems, a 2008 GAO
report found that it’s possible to set up shop billing Medicare
with little more than a few forged documents and a dummy phone
number—one that went to an empty desk at GAO’s office. Medicaid,
the health program for the low-income and disabled, has been
similarly plagued by abuse and outright fraud.

This has been going on for years, and yet relatively little has
been done to stop it. Under the Obama administraiton, Medicare’s
managers have taken some steps to address fraud and abuse in the
system, but at best these efforts have succeeded only at marginally
reducing the problem, cutting out a few billion dollars in wasteful
or fraudulent spending each year. The magnitude of the problem is
still pretty enormous, and what the IRS IG report suggests is that
it may soon grow to encompass Obamacare as well. 

from Hit & Run

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