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Clinton Targets Medicare Drug Cheats He Seeks Legislation To Prevent Doctors From Adding On To Costs

Vowing a renewed crackdown on the “unfair fraud tax” he said costs Medicare billions a year, President Clinton urged Congress on Saturday to pass legislation barring doctors from charging more for drugs than they pay themselves.

“Medicare is more than just a program. It reflects our values,” Clinton said in his weekly radio address. “It’s one way we honor parents and our grandparents and protect our families across the generations.”

Medicare fraud costs billions of dollars each year and undermines the nation’s ability to care for those most in need, he said.

“Taxpayers deserve to expect that every cent of hard-earned money is spent on quality medical care for deserving patients,” he said.

Clinton said that clamping down on drug overcharges would save $700 million over five years. He noted that recent report by the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services found that what Medicare pays for drugs “bears little or no resemblance to actual wholesale prices that are available to physicians and suppliers that bill for these drugs.”

“These overpayments occur because Medicare reimburses doctors according to the published average wholesale price, the so-called ‘sticker price,’ for drugs,” Clinton said. “Few doctors, however, actually pay the full sticker price.”

“For more than one-third of these drugs, Medicare paid more than double the actual wholesale prices, and in some cases pays as high as ten times the amount,” the White House said in a fact sheet.

Clinton said the proposal, to be included in his budget for the 1999 fiscal year, will “ensure that doctors are reimbursed no more and no less than the price they themselves pay for the medicines they give Medicare patients.”

The president said his proposal is just one of a series of actions he has taken to curb waste, fraud and abuse in the Medicare system.

He said that since taking office in 1993, more FBI agents and federal prosecutors have been assigned to Medicare fraud cases, resulting in a 240 percent increase in convictions and $20 billion worth of savings in health care claims.

“Two years ago the Department of Health and Human Services launched Operation Restore Trust,” Clinton said. “Already it has identified $23 dollars in fines and settlements for every dollar invested in the program.”

He said last year’s balanced budget agreement “gives us an array of new weapons to help keep scam artists and fly-by-night health care providers out of Medicare in the first place.”

xxxx EXPENSIVE MEDICINE For more than one-third of these drugs, Medicare paid more than double the actual wholesale prices, and in some cases pays as high as ten times the amount, according to the White House.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Lawrence L. Knutson Associated Press


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