Taxpayer Dollars Funding Drugs for Dead People

Medicare payments allowed up to 32 days after patients' deaths: report
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 31, 2014 8:56 AM CDT
Medicare Pays for Drugs for the Dead
Insurance payments were allowed up to 32 days after patients' deaths: report.   (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

Dead men don't wear plaid—and they don't pick up prescription drugs at the pharmacy. Yet Medicare has been paying for medicine for the deceased for up to 32 days after their deaths, the AP reports. A report out today from the Health and Human Services Department's inspector general examines 2012 Medicare claims for one small segment of Medicare drugs—expensive HIV-treatment meds—and finds that Medicare covered 348 such drugs for 158 dead people. The cost to taxpayers: an average $1,850 per patient, for a total of $292,381. Investigators suspect the drugs may have ended up where many high-priced meds do: the underground market.

And the monetary waste generated across the entire "Part D" program of Medicare prescriptions due to the practice could total in the millions, investigators say. "The payment policy is the same for all drugs, whether they are $2,000 drugs to treat HIV or $4 generic drugs," the report's team leader says. "After reviewing this report, [Medicare] has had preliminary discussions with the industry to revisit the need for a 32-day window," the Medicare head wrote in response, notes the AP. (This physical therapist billed Medicare for $4 million.)

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