in Houston, Texas
Medicare paid tens of millions in unwarranted doctor bonuses in Hidalgo County, unknown amount in other parts of Texas
Monday, Apr 23, 2012, 09:59AM CST
By Mark Lisheron

Medicare, that living testament to the efficiency of government-provided health care, paid doctors in Hidalgo County $64 million more in bonuses than they were entitled to, according to an investigation by the Houston Chronicle.

Certainly gourmet chicken feed in a program with a $563 billion budget in 2011 (you can find a recent budget summary on p. 53 of this report) that accepts $48 billion in payment mistakes every year as a cost of doing business.

It seems Medicare officials were aware of but did nothing to stop primary care doctors in Hidalgo County from receiving bonuses from 2003 through November of 2011 for which they weren’t qualified, the Chronicle story says.

The paper hadn’t gotten totals for improper bonus payments made to doctors in 31 other Texas areas, including Houston’s Third Ward, Pasadena, Baytown, and Texas City.

Medicare officials admitted the program issued $33 million in unnecessary bonuses nationally in 2010 alone.

Medicare and Medicaid began offering the bonuses as an incentive to doctors working in areas the programs determined were deficient in their health care options. But because an agency failed to revise the list of needy areas bonuses continued to be issued for almost nine years to doctors in at least 311 areas nationally no longer eligible.

Medicare can’t say just how many doctors in those areas received bonuses or how much of your tax money they spent. Not that officials were paying all that much attention.

Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

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