Agencies must keep watchful eye on improper payments, report says
GAO praised the Health and Human Services Department for reporting an annual estimate of improper payments in its Medical-Fee-for-Service program, and said the department's initiative has helped identify and reduce erroneous payments. In fact, according to a March report from Health and Human Services' inspector general, the Health Care Financing Administration has cut Medicare overpayments by nearly 50 percent over the past five years.
Data-sharing has proved useful as well, according to GAO. The Social Security Administration shares data with the Housing and Urban Development Department to verify the identity of recipients of housing benefits and identify potentially fraudulent claims. SSA also shares information with state and local agencies to confirm the eligibility of people applying for state or federal benefits. According to GAO, agency leaders must make a serious commitment to tackling improper payments. Since the government plans to spend more money over the next few years on programs such as Medicare and Social Security, it cannot afford to lose money to improper payments that could be avoided through proper oversight. "Just putting control activities in place is not the end of the process-monitoring progress and results is essential and must include the involvement of top-level officials," the report said.