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This site is the inspiration of a former reporter/photographer for one of New England's largest daily newspapers and for various magazines. The intent is to direct readers to interesting political articles, and we urge you to visit the source sites. Any comments may be noted on site or directed to KarisChaf at gmail.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Military needlessly overpaid millions for overseas health care: IG -- By Phillip Swarts, The Washington Times

Overseas health providers likely gouged the military for millions of dollars and the Department of Defense did little to stop it, a new report says.

Officials at TRICARE Management Activity (TMA) — part of the military's health leadership — didn't try to negotiate lower prices at any of the 163 overseas health care locations, instead paying whatever bills they got — to a tune of $238 million in fiscal 2012.

At six locations, investigators said the bills for health care jumped 203 percent, going from $21.1 million to $63.8 million from 2009 to 2012.

"Without negotiating rates or implementing other cost containment measures, TMA potentially paid more than necessary for health care services provided by overseas providers and missed potential opportunities to obtain the best value for health care services," said a report from the Pentagon's internal watchdog, the inspector general.

Negotiating even basic price caps for services could help save $16 million a year, investigators warned, saying that it's especially important because "TMA payments may continue to significantly increase resulting in much higher payments over the next five years."

Negotiating lower prices can have a drastic effect. TMA has reached pricing agreements in three countries, and payments have dropped in all three over the past four years. The department is paying 5.7 percent less in Puerto Rico; 67.1 percent less in Panama; and now 82.1 percent less in the Philippines.

The department said it can be difficult to negotiate price agreements with medical providers in nations where U.S. service personnel make up a small percentage of the local population, and that they need to study how best to lower prices without affecting medical treatment for troops.

"I am very concerned with the rise of health care costs and the impact that these costs have on the DOD budget," said a letter from Jonathan Woodson, the assistant secretary of defense for health affairs. "As such, we continually look for opportunities to control health care costs and will continue to do so."

The danger for fraud is also high without any price limits, as the IG is concerned about a repeat of an incident in the Philippines. TMA payments to medical providers there rose from $2.9 million in 1998 to $64.2 million in 2003 — a change of 2,135 percent in just five years.

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