Medicare Addresses Fraud and Overspending

The federal government is cracking down on health care fraud and overspending in nine areas of the country. As of Jan. 1, Medicare will only pay for merchandise ordered from a list of selected vendors. The new program will affect parts of California, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Missouri, Florida and the Carolinas. [audio:http://eunalhee.com/wp-content/uploads/Lhee_NPRMedicare.mp3|titles=Medicare|artists=Lhee]

Medicare seniors will have to be extra-careful about where they get their power wheelchairs, diabetic test strips and other medical equipment. They’ll have to call Medicare or consult its website to see if their current suppliers are approved resellers. Anyone who buys from a supplier not on Medicare’s new list may be stuck with a bill for the full price of the item.

Officials hope this will prevent Medicare from paying inflated prices to vendors.

Medicare Director Jonathan Blum said that over the next 10 years, the plan will save more than $28 billion for beneficiaries, Medicare and taxpayers.

"Our goal is one, to ensure that we have better prices, but two, that we get a much stronger handle on fraud, waste and abuse on these supplies," Blum said.

For now, the initiative targets the Orlando and Miami areas in Florida. Blum said he hopes to phase the program into more parts of the country starting next year. [NPR Spot]