Monday, February 19, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Time to rein in Medicare overbilling

No wonder so many Americans are skeptical about the federal government's ability to wisely spend their money. A new report shows it spent billions more on Medicare than it should have for doctors' visits and patient evaluations. Yet the government says it would cost too much to hold doctors accountable for overbilling. That is irresponsible, and Washington must find a cost-effective way to monitor Medicare billings and root out unjustified costs.

Medicare overspent by $6.7 billion for office visits and patient evaluations in 2010, according to a report by the Department of Health and Human Services. The overpayments account for 21 percent of the $32.3 billion spent on evaluation and management services in 2010, a category that includes office visits, emergency room assessments and inpatient hospital evaluations. The inspector general called for more oversight on these services after a 2012 report revealed that doctors had increasingly billed Medicare for more expensive office visits over time.

Yet the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services says it would be too expensive to review physician's billings. By failing to hold doctors accountable, the government is wasting taxpayer dollars and ignoring evidence of exorbitant waste. There has to be a better way than willful indifference.

The Tampa Bay Times reported when health providers in Florida billed Medicare for nearly 19 million visits in 2012, they listed the top fee less than 5 percent of the time. But a small concentration of doctors in the state routinely asked for the highest fees, incurring the most costs to Medicare. About 160 doctors and medical providers claimed nearly all of their patient visits merited the highest rating on a 1 to 5 scale. Another nearly 425 providers billed nearly half their office visits at that rate.

Receiving large Medicare payments doesn't necessarily indicate, but it does raise red flags. CMS agreed with a recommendation by the inspector general's office to educate doctors about proper billing practices, but it would not agree to routinely review doctors' Medicare billings. This sends the message that physicians have a license to bill without consistency or reason, and that those who freely abuse the system won't be detected or punished.

If it costs too much to individually monitor Medicare billing, then the government must find another way to check unfettered spending. Medicare has enough trouble remaining financially viable without wasting billions on unjustified bills, and Americans expect government to spend their money responsibly.

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Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Itís not popular in Washington or virtually anywhere else these days to express concern about the rising federal deficit. Congressional Republicans who used to be deficit hawks first voted to cut taxes by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, then rais...
Published: 02/17/18
Editorial: Buckhorn should not appeal verdict in firefighterís case

Editorial: Buckhorn should not appeal verdict in firefighterís case

The city of Tampa should have taken Tanja Vidovic seriously from the start when the Tampa firefighter complained about her treatment in the workplace. Now that a jury and judge have spoken, itís time for City Hall to cut its losses, learn from its mi...
Published: 02/15/18
Updated: 02/16/18
Editorial: CareerSource troubles mount as public trust drops

Editorial: CareerSource troubles mount as public trust drops

The dark cloud enveloping Tampa Bayís job placement centers keeps growing. There are accusations of forged documents, evidence of nepotism and concerns about grossly inflated performance numbers that could be tied to receiving more public money and b...
Published: 02/15/18
Updated: 02/16/18
Editorials: Prayers and platitudes after shootings arenít enough

Editorials: Prayers and platitudes after shootings arenít enough

Even before the victims of another mass shooting at another public school were identified, Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, state legislators and members of Congress rushed to South Florida or to social media to offer their thoughts and p...
Published: 02/15/18
Editorial: DCF review should get to the bottom of Hillsborough foster care issues

Editorial: DCF review should get to the bottom of Hillsborough foster care issues

The Florida Department of Children and Families is right to call for a timely and "comprehensive" review of Hillsborough Countyís foster care system. Though the probe is a reaction to a recent case involving a child who was left unattended, the revie...
Published: 02/14/18

A Washington Post editorial: Modernize 911 calling before it becomes an emergency

This Friday marks the 50th anniversary of the first 911 emergency call placed in the United States. Since then, uncounted lives have been saved and people helped. It has been a great accomplishment of government.But even as an estimated 240 million 9...
Published: 02/13/18
Updated: 02/14/18
Editorial: Scott, Cabinet cannot be trusted on felonsí voting rights

Editorial: Scott, Cabinet cannot be trusted on felonsí voting rights

Gov. Rick Scott always has been grudging and imperious about restoring the voting rights of felons, requiring them to wait for years before begging the governor and Cabinet to be recognized again as citizens. That arrogance is on full display in a le...
Published: 02/13/18
Another voice: ĎDreamersí donít know whom to trust on immigration

Another voice: ĎDreamersí donít know whom to trust on immigration

Immigrants brought into this country illegally as children by their parents may be wondering whom to trust. The political theater being played out in Washington hasnít settled the status of either the "Dreamers" or the estimated 11 million other undo...
Published: 02/13/18
Editorial: Promising Tampa stadium site for Rays

Editorial: Promising Tampa stadium site for Rays

While it came as little surprise, the Tampa Bay Raysí selection of an Ybor City site near Tampaís Channel District as the best spot for a new stadium is an important milestone in the effort to keep Major League Baseball. Now comes the hard work of de...
Published: 02/09/18
Editorial: Senate should reject Houseís attack on public schools

Editorial: Senate should reject Houseís attack on public schools

After pummeling public education so soundly last year, itís little surprise Republican state legislators are mounting another attack on public schools, teachers and local districts. The mammoth education bill passed by the House last week is loaded w...
Published: 02/08/18
Updated: 02/13/18