In her testimony before Congress last month, Kathleen M. King, Director of Health Care at the U.S. General Accountability Office (GAO), reported “improper payments” under the Medicare and Medicaid programs amounting to almost $70.5 billion for fiscal year 2010. According to the GAO, any payment was labeled “improper” if it “should not have been made or … was made in an incorrect amount.”
I must say I find this is a little annoying after all that dramatic High Noon style angst last week. You remember — the climactic late night John Boehner and President Obama show-down about whether to cut 61 billlion or 38 billion or zero billion or whatever-the-heck from the budget, while military families got ulcers wondering if they were going to get their next paychecks? And then the dramatic conclusion with Boehner laughing manically as he dangled Planned Parenthood over the chopping block and Obama yelling "Okay! 38 billion! Just don't hurt Planned Parenthood!"
And now, after all that, we are to learn that the GAO has quietly gathered nickels and dimes adding up to a cool 70 billion plus from beneath the couch cushions at Medicare? According to the Foundry that's enough to fund the "Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State (excluding USAID) over the same time period." Or, better yet, they suggested, the money could be used to keep the military funded above the sub-adequate levels that Obama is advocating for our future security.
To restore our nation’s fiscal health, Congress must get a handle on entitlements and make hard cuts in unnecessary programs and pork. Even the Department of Defense can find waste to cut, but those savings should be plowed back into its budget to spend on what the U.S. military needs to protect our nation. Funding defense at the appropriate level to counter the threats we face is the government’s first and foremost constitutional duty.
According to our calculations at Heritage, the yearly defense budget should average about $720 billion over the next five years. As the sheer size of the “improper” Medicare and Medicaid payments prove, such an investment in defense is not only affordable; it’s doable.
Or here's an idea, we could use the windfall to pay down the national debt back to the level it was clear back in… let me see… um, two weeks ago.
Then again, maybe we shouldn't go there.
Anyway, I wonder how much more we could find in the car ashtrays down at the Social Security Administration. Can I look?