Where's the outrage over Bay State's health care giveaway?
© by Barbara Anderson
The Salem News
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
So I was talking with the
general last week about the people from 48 other states who are
coming to Massachusetts to get free medical care. He put out a
report on it last month that hasn't received the attention or
outrage it deserves.
I've known IG Greg Sullivan since he was the state representative
from Norwood, one of the last real Beacon Hill Democrats, serving
during the era when conservative Dems were standing up to Gov.
Michael Dukakis. They and the Republicans were resisting the second
major Dukakis tax hike, which included a sales tax on services.
Legislators were told that this new tax would cover only the
services used by "the rich" — such as the fees charged by
accountants, lawyers, and architects.
Rep. Sullivan did some quick research at the Department of Revenue
and stood during debate to read the list of 594 services that would
be taxed, which included your haircut and neighborhood kids mowing
your lawn. After his hour-long performance, the overall tax bill
passed by only a few votes; and the sales tax on services section
was repealed the next year, after Bill Weld became governor, and
before it took effect.
So I was pleased when Sullivan became head of the independent
watchdog agency created in 1981 with a mission to "prevent and
detect fraud, waste, and abuse in the expenditure of public funds."
His latest report, titled "Ongoing
Analysis of the Health Safety Net Trust Fund," is what my dad
would have called "a doozy."
One of the viable arguments for passing what everyone now calls
RomneyCare in 2006, was to address the problem of the "free care
pool" that provided free medical care to Massachusetts residents
(including illegal immigrants) who didn't have insurance. Since
hospitals couldn't absorb these costs alone, eventually insurance
companies and businesses that provided health insurance had to chip
in. Those of us with insurance paid for this through higher premiums
and longer waits in emergency rooms, which the uninsured used for
general medical care.
RomneyCare was intended to relieve the pressure on emergency rooms
by getting almost everyone to take some responsibility for their
health care by buying basic insurance (which was supposed to be
"affordable"), then creating the Health Safety Net (HSN) for the
poor. It was made clear that only Massachusetts residents would be
eligible for this care, and the state was supposed to have a
validation system like the one used for Medicare, Medicaid and by
health insurance companies for their own claims.
I called Sullivan to ask what went wrong. He told me that instead of
building the new system on those existing models, state bureaucrats
decided to create their own oversight system. It was harder than
they thought, so after three years they gave up!
They gave up! There is no claim oversight system! There's just a
place where bills go to be paid, no questions asked! No proof of
residency is required, no Social Security number, no proof that the
claimant is actually "poor."
Sullivan's office hired its own auditor. During the one year
checked, ending June 30, 2010, $405 million was paid out in claims
from hospitals and community health centers. Millions were paid in
duplicate claims and medically unnecessary claims that a private
insurance company would have caught.
Sullivan told me that the average insurance company rejects 10
percent of claims. HSN had some 20 percent of claims that were
questionable and rejected none of them.
When the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) inspected, it found
that people from every state but Arizona and some foreign countries
have received free care here, at our expense (roughly $7 million
The OIG, as required by statute, reported the lack of oversight to
the Patrick administration, which had already acknowledged last fall
that $35.7 million had been spent on emergency health care for
52,000 illegal immigrants in one year.
The governor says the report is exaggerated. I don't know how you
exaggerate audit numbers. I think he means our concern about this
outrage is misplaced, in his humble opinion.
interviewed last week by Howie Carr on WRKO, Sullivan noted a
paid $4,000 claim for a bottle of Lipitor and a claim paid for
someone born in 1880, just to give an idea of what can get through
the non-existent HSN validation system. Bills were paid for men who
had hysterectomies, women who had vasectomies, and people with
headaches who had a foot X-ray.
Boston Herald covered the quietly-released report [here
state senators called for better verification of applicants'
eligibility and improved safeguards. During the recent supplemental
budget debate, Sen. Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, filed three amendments
to the state's 2011 supplemental budget to crack down on the flaws
in the system. The amendments failed. The one roll call shows that
besides Tarr, only the three other Senate Republicans and two
Democrats, voted in favor.
All our North Shore Democratic senators voted to let out-of-staters
keep getting free care while we residents struggle to pay our
required health insurance premiums, and then pay more to cover the
unaccountable free care pool with taxpayer subsidies. Remember this
doozy in November 2012.
The comments made
and opinions expressed in her columns are those of Barbara Anderson
and do not necessarily reflect those of Citizens for Limited Taxation.
Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her
column appears weekly in the Salem News and other Eagle Tribune newspapers; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette.
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