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Federal Government
Retiring Congressman Howard Coble Introduces Final Major Bill PDF Print E-mail
Federal Government
By Administrator   
Monday, 14 July 2014 10:23

 

RALEIGH, (SGRToday.com) - With just six months left before he retires from three decades of congressional service to North Carolina's sixth district, Rep. Howard Coble has authored the Satellite Television Access Reauthorization Act of 2014 (H.R. 5036). 
 
Coble is chairman of the House Judiciary subcommittee that has jurisdiction over the nation’s television industry.  
 
The bill extends the expiring provisions of current law that governs satellite companies’ ability to retransmit broadcast television signals.  
 
Three statutory licenses enable copyrighted video content to be made available without permission. One will expire on December 31, 2014, unless renewed by Congress.  
 
“This extension will implement no change to the existing licenses," Coble said in a statement. "I, along with my satellite viewing constituents, look forward to seeing its quick enactment, and I hope passage of the bill will be a fitting cap to my tenure as chairman of this important subcommittee.”
 
 
Bureau Of Economic Analysis: May 2014 Exports Total $195 Billion, Imports Total $44.4 Billion PDF Print E-mail
Federal Government
By Administrator   
Friday, 11 July 2014 09:39

RALEIGH, (SGRToday.com) - The federal government reports that May 2014 economic data shows a goods and services deficit of $44.4 billion, down from $47 billion in April. 

 
The deficit was derived from Department of Commerce data showing $195.5 billion in imports and $239.8 billion in exports, according to 
 
May exports were $2.0 billion more than April exports of $193.5 billion. May imports were $0.7 billion less than April imports of $240.5 billion, the report said.
 
In addition, the goods deficit decreased $2.4 billion from April to $63.3 billion, and the services surplus increased $0.3 billion from April to $18.9 billion. Exports of goods increased $1.6 billion to $136.7 billion, and imports of goods decreased $0.7 billion to $200.0 billion. 
 
The full report can be found at http://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/Press-Release/2014pr/05/ft900.pdf
Last Updated on Friday, 11 July 2014 09:41
 
Federal Government Made $100 Billion In Improper Payments PDF Print E-mail
Federal Government
By Administrator   
Wednesday, 09 July 2014 14:10

WASHINGTON (AP) — By its own estimate, the government made about $100 billion in payments last year to people who may not have been entitled to receive them — tax credits to families that didn't qualify, unemployment benefits to people who had jobs and medical payments for treatments that might not have been necessary.

 
Congressional investigators say the figure could be even higher.
 
The Obama administration has reduced the amount of improper payments since they peaked in 2010. Still, estimates from federal agencies show that some are wasting big money at a time when Congress is squeezing agency budgets and looking to save more.
 
"Nobody knows exactly how much taxpayer money is wasted through improper payments, but the federal government's own astounding estimate is more than half a trillion dollars over the past five years," said Rep. John Mica, R-Fla. "The fact is, improper payments are staggeringly high in programs designed to help those most in need — children, seniors and low-income families."
 
Mica chairs the House Oversight subcommittee on government operations. The subcommittee is holding a hearing on improper payments Wednesday afternoon.
 
Each year, federal agencies are required to estimate the amount of improper payments they issue. They include overpayments, underpayments, payments to the wrong recipient and payments that were made without proper documentation.
 
Some improper payments are the result of fraud, while others are unintentional, caused by clerical errors or mistakes in awarding benefits without proper verification.
 
In 2013, federal agencies made $97 billion in overpayments, according to agency estimates. Underpayments totaled $9 billion.
 
The amount of improper payments has steadily dropped since 2010, when it peaked at $121 billion.
 
The Obama administration has stepped up efforts to measure improper payments, identify the cause and develop plans to reduce them, said Beth Cobert, deputy director of the White House budget office. Agencies recovered more than $22 billion in overpayments last year.
 
"We have strengthened accountability and transparency, saving the American people money while improving the fiscal responsibility of federal programs," Cobert said in a statement ahead of Wednesday's hearing. "We are pleased with this progress, but know that we have more work to do in this area."
 
However, a new report by the Government Accountability Office questions the accuracy of agency estimates, suggesting that the real tally could be higher. The GAO is the investigative arm of Congress.
 
"The federal government is unable to determine the full extent to which improper payments occur and reasonably assure that appropriate actions are taken to reduce them," Beryl H. Davis, director of financial management at the GAO, said in prepared testimony for Wednesday's hearing.
 
Davis said some agencies don't develop estimates for programs that could be susceptible to improper payments. For example, the Health and Human Services Department says it cannot force states to help it develop estimates for the cash welfare program known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. The program is administered by the states.
 
The largest sources of improper payments are government health care programs, according to agency estimates. Medicare's various health insurance programs for older Americans accounted for $50 billion in improper payments in the 2013 budget year, far exceeding any other program.
 
Most of the payments were deemed improper because they were issued without proper documentation, said Shantanu Agrawal, a deputy administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. In some cases, the paperwork didn't verify that services were medically necessary.
 
"Payments deemed 'improper' under these circumstances tend to be the result of documentation and coding errors made by the provider as opposed to payments made for inappropriate claims," Agrawal said in prepared testimony for Wednesday's hearing.
 
Among other programs with large amounts of improper payments:
 
—The earned income tax credit, which provides payments to the working poor in the form of tax refunds. Last year, improper payments totaled $14.5 billion. That's 24 percent of all payments under the program.
 
The EITC is one of the largest anti-poverty programs in the U.S., providing $60.3 billion in payments last year. Eligibility depends on income and family size, making it complicated to apply for the credit — and difficult to enforce, said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.
 
"EITC eligibility depends on items that the IRS cannot readily verify through third-party information reporting, including marital status and the relationship and residency of children," Koskinen told a House committee in May. "In addition, the eligible population for the EITC shifts by approximately one-third each year, making it difficult for the IRS to use prior-year data to assist in validating compliance."
 
— Medicaid, the government health care program for the poor. Last year, improper payments totaled $14.4 billion.
 
Medicaid, which is run jointly by the federal government and the states, has seen a steady decline in improper payments since 2010, when they peaked at $23 billion.
 
The program is expanding under President Barack Obama's health law.
 
—Unemployment insurance, a joint federal-state program that provides temporary benefits to laid-off workers. Amount of improper payments last year: $6.2 billion, or 9 percent of all payments.
 
The Labor Department said most overpayments went to people who continued to get benefits after returning to work, or who didn't meet state requirements to look for work while they were unemployed. Others were ineligible for benefits because they voluntarily quit their jobs or were fired.
 
—Supplemental Security Income, a disability program for the poor run by the Social Security Administration. Amount of improper payments: $4.3 billion, or 8 percent of all payments.
 
Social Security's much larger retirement and disability programs issued $2.4 billion in improper payments, according to agency estimates. Those programs provided more than $770 billion in benefits, so improper payments accounted for less than 1 percent.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 09 July 2014 14:10
 
Medicare Providers: Federal Government's Auditing Procedures Ineffective PDF Print E-mail
Federal Government
By Administrator   
Wednesday, 09 July 2014 14:06

MIAMI (AP) — Health care companies say they're losing millions of dollars that are tied up in appeals because of increasing numbers of Medicare audits. But the rise in the often duplicative audits has failed to reduce Medicare fraud, according to a report released Wednesday.

 
In recent years, the Obama administration has added manpower to investigate cases, increase audits and analyze more data to fight fraud in the taxpayer-funded Medicare program. Yet a report from the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging criticized the government for not targeting its resources more effectively.
 
Improper payments within Medicare's largest sector increased for the first time in five years, jumping from $30 billion to $36 billion, despite the Obama administration's all-out campaign to prevent fraud. Medicare fraud in the fee-for-service program had steadily declined since 2009, but improper payments rose between 2011 and 2012, according to the report that cites the most recent data available. During that same time, federal health officials launched a $77 million technology screening system designed to proactively prevent fraudulent providers from joining the system and prevent bogus claims from being paid in the first place.
 
But the committee expressed concern that the government's "strategy to reduce improper payments is actually a strategy aimed more at identifying and recovering improper payments that have already occurred," according to the report.
 
Federal health officials said in the report that new policy changes confused providers. They also noted the new screening technology prevented $210 million in fraudulent payments in its second year of operation.
 
The Medical Equipment Suppliers Association said some providers experienced between 24 and 228 audits in one year, according to a letter to federal health officials included in the report.
 
Ascension Health had 66,613 claims audited and about half were alleged to be improper payments. The company says the government withheld about $200 million in payments while it appealed. Less than one-fourth of appealed recoveries were upheld, according to the report. Catholic Health Initiatives said it's appealed 87 percent of cases and won the vast majority, but complained significant funds were withheld during the process.
 
"What has been created is an overly complicated system with duplication where virtually any (durable medical equipment) claim payment can be recouped," according to prepared testimony from Walter Gorski, head of Gorski Healthcare Group LLC, during a round table Wednesday with Sen. Nelson and health care stakeholders, including the American Hospital Association.
 
The report also blamed the federal government for lax oversight of its confusing maze of private fraud prevention contractors, noting a fundamental flaw in the way certain contractors are paid because they are paid based on the dollar amount of fraud they identify. Experts say a more effective system would incentivize contractors by paying them based on their ability to reduce fraudulent payment instead of merely identifying large amounts.
 
Medicare has been a highly sensitive political issue for the Obama administration partly due to a backlash from seniors over program cuts to help finance the president's health care overhaul. Top officials have since emphasized the administration's stewardship of Medicare, touting better benefits and oversight.
 
"Despite doing more audits than ever before, Medicare just isn't getting the job done when it comes to preventing payment errors," said committee Chairman Bill Nelson (D-FL).
 
Last Updated on Wednesday, 09 July 2014 14:06
 
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