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Abeler: Government must hold health insurance companies accountable

Posted by: Abby Simons under Minnesota campaigns Updated: June 16, 2014 - 12:31 PM

Lawmakers must take an interest in demanding accountability from health insurance companies who overcharged the federal government from as much as $20 to 70 billion over five years, U.S. Senate candidate Rep. Jim Abeler said Monday.

Abeler cited reports by the Government Accountability Office and the Center for Public Integrity that show insurance companies managing Medicare have overbilled the Federal government by reporting that patients are sicker than they actually are. Through a process called "risk adjustment," companies get more money without having to provide any proof or be accountable to any type of audit.

Abeler, R-Anoka, who is running in the primary for U.S. Senate,  said insurance companies run unchecked by setting rates for themselves and refusing to disclose their data saying it's confidential and trade secrets. Abeler said that needs to change.

"If we are to avert the impending disaster in these vital government programs, it is time that we demand integrity and accountability in government and its vendors," Abeler told reporters. "The current rate of government spending is unsustainable. Many individuals fear for Medicare's long-term viability. If these deceitful and corrupt practices continue they will bankrupt Medicare."

In terms of launching an audit process, Abeler said "First you have to decide you want to."

"The first step is to admit you're willing to do something. At this point from the (Obama) Administration all the way to elected officials; they're unwilling to do anything." he said adding that it's likely because of pressure from insurance companies. It should be the other way around, he said.

 Abeler had no specific plan to enable federal audits, but said Congress could compel the health insurance companies to disclose data by authoring legislation, or President Obama could issue an executive order.

"We need to demand accountability," he said. "This is a precaution that should have been made hundreds of billions of dollars ago."

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