9 Investigates Medicare payments for the dead



In 2011, Medicare paid out more than $23 million in claims for people who were already dead. 

In a report by the Office of the Inspector General, 251 providers are identified as having filed a high number of claims and in many cases received payments for Medicare beneficiaries after the person had already died.

Listed in the report were three Central Florida providers: MRB Acquisition Corp., Florida Clinical Laboratory Inc. and Florida Hospital Respiratory and Equipment. 

Channel 9 contacted each central Florida provider to see if they had been informed of the claims by either the OIG or the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Each said they were unaware of the claims.

“There is no legitimate excuse for this,” said Dwayne Grant of the Office of the Inspector General.  “Medicare continues to pay for services for deceased people.”

The OIG completed its report and sent it to CMS for review, but no action was ever taken to recover the money or inform the providers that there had been apparent billing errors.

“Currently, CMS’ system is just to reject the claim and not pay it,; they don’t do any followup,” said Grant.

CMS, in a written statement to Eyewitness New, said, “OIG's report does not provide any evidence that the provider/supplier knew (or could have reasonably determined) that entitlement was terminated on or before the date of service at issue or was 'not without fault' for some other reason with respect to these overpayments. Without this information, CMS is precluded from collecting these overpayments.”

“It is an outrage that taxpayers are being ripped off,” said U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida.  “There’s an easy way to check that -- get the master death list and stop it when you get notification of death.”

It remains unclear if any of the 251 national providers, including the three local providers, have even been made aware of the billing errors or been given any steps by CMS to correct the problem. 

For its part, CMS in its statement to Eyewitness News said it has no plans to recover the money, stating, “Under Section 1870 of the Social Security Act and 42 CFR section 405.350, CMS must waive recovery of overpayments if the provider/supplier was 'without fault' in causing the overpayment.”