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Health Care

CMS Accidentally Covers Dead People

The Medicare and Medicaid agency paid $23 million on behalf of deceased beneficiaries in 2011.

Sen. Tom Coburn is not pleased about the inspector general's report on improper CMS payments.(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

photo of Sophie Novack
October 31, 2013

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has you covered … to death and beyond. 

According to an Office of the Inspector General report released Thursday, the agency mistakenly paid $23 million on behalf of deceased beneficiaries in 2011.

The OIG report found that millions were paid to providers, suppliers, prescription-drug plan sponsors, and Medicare advantage organizations for Medicare beneficiaries who died between 2009 and 2011.

 

The sum is less than one-tenth of 1 percent of total Medicare spending, and CMS "has safeguards to prevent and recover Medicare payments made on behalf of deceased beneficiaries," according to the report.

CMS agreed with all of OIG's recommendations to prevent improper payments in the future.

In any case, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., is not happy. He urged passage of his Improper Payments Agency Cooperation Enhancements Act on Thursday—which he and Rep. Tom Carper, D-Del., introduced in July—to improve coordination of agencies regarding efforts to combat waste and fraud.

"Awarding benefits to the deceased is dead wrong," he said. 

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