GAO Finds Repeat Fraud

By Medicare Suppliers

Medical equipment suppliers that defraud Medicare or operate without a proper license often have little trouble regaining billing privileges so they can do it all over again, the Government Accountability Office said yesterday.

The office, which serves as a watchdog for Congress, said it identified 1,038 equipment suppliers suspended from Medicare in 2003, generally for violating multiple standards. Of these suppliers, 192 were reenrolled as of May 31, 2004. Their average suspension lasted about three months.

The report gave no indication how much money those 192 suppliers improperly billed the government, but investigators found enough alarming examples to recommend that Congress consider specific waiting periods before suspended suppliers can regain their billing privileges.

Agencies Decrease

Waterway Protection

In the past four years, the United States has drastically cut back on its protection of waterways and wetlands, whose erosion was cited as a factor in the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina, according to a report.

The report by the Government Accountability Office examined how the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency assert jurisdiction over waterways and wetlands.

Before 2001, the Corps had jurisdiction over most waters, including isolated, nonnavigable waters, if migratory birds could use them, but a Supreme Court decision in January 2001 concluded that the Corps had exceeded its powers.

The GAO report found that under the Bush administration, the Corps and the EPA had used that ruling as a reason to scale back jurisdiction over waterways and wetlands much more than was required by the court.

Army Reevaluates

Notification of Kin

The U.S. Army has launched a review into how it notifies families that a soldier has been killed in Iraq or Afghanistan after hearing complaints from some of them, including the parents of former professional football player Pat Tillman, officials said yesterday.

Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey has directed that the review be completed by January, said his spokesman, Lt. Col. Thomas Collins.

Collins said that the problem was not thought to be widespread but cited some instances in which relatives were given incorrect information about how loved ones died. He mentioned Tillman, who was fatally shot by fellow Army Rangers in Afghanistan in 2004. The Army determined almost immediately that he had been the victim of friendly fire, but his family was not told that for more than a month.

-- From News Services