December 15, 2009

AP Readers’ Rule: Quickly Skip to the Final Paragraphs; Article Cites $60 Billion Per Year In Medicare Fraud At End

money-down-toilet

Longtime readers of Associated Press dispatches have long since learned that many of the most important facts of a story — especially facts that put the government, bureaucrats, and leftists in a bad light — are often found in its final paragraphs. This is a way for the wire service to boast that it really did report all important facts while usually ensuring that harried broadcasters and other users of AP content who attempt to digest it down to a couple of sentences will probably will leave the meaty and incriminating stuff on the cutting room floor.

Such is the case with a report on the arrest of dozens of Medicare ripoff artists in various US cities. While the details of the arrests are indeed important, the final three paragraphs of AP writer Kelli Kennedy’s report are the real jaw-droppers, especially in the context of the president’s and Congress’s dogged determination to set a statist takeover of the entire health care system into motion before the end of this year (bolds are mine):

32 accused of $60M in Medicare fraud in 3 states

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Federal agents arrested 26 suspects in three states Tuesday, including a doctor and nurses, in a major crackdown on Medicare fraud totaling $61 million in separate scams.

Arrests in Miami, Brooklyn and Detroit included a Florida doctor accused of running a $40 million home health care scheme that falsely listed patients as blind diabetics so that he could bill for twice-daily nurse visits.

The U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said the indicted suspects lined up bogus patients and otherwise billed Medicare for unnecessary medical equipment, physical therapy and HIV infusions.

Indictments were issued for 32 people in all, but the status of the other suspects wasn’t immediately known.

(Final three paragraphs)

Including Tuesday’s arrests, a Medicare Fraud strike force formed by the Justice and Health departments has now charged suspects accused of bilking Medicare of more than $1 billion in less than two years.

The pilot strike force, which started in Miami in 2007, has indicted more than 460 suspects in Medicare fraud scams. The program is now in Los Angeles, Houston and Detroit. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius also announced Tuesday the operation will expand to Tampa, Fla., Baton Rouge, La., and Brooklyn.

Cleaning up an estimated $60 billion a year in Medicare fraud will be key to President Barack Obama’s proposed health care overhaul. HHS and DOJ have promised more money and manpower to fight the fraud.

So of all the fraud that is occurring, the feds have caught less than 1% of it ($1 billion divided by 2 years divided by $60 billion equals 0.83%).

Beyond that, Kennedy also avoided giving that $60 billion any context. That $60 billion in fraud represents an almost impossible to fathom 12%-plus of all Medicare spending, based on these references:

  • The 2009 Medicare Trustees’ Report said that total Medicare spending in 2008 was $468 billion. $60 billion is 12.8% of that amount.
  • A May 2009 report (PDF) from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation predicts that Medicare spending in 2009 will be $484 billion. Applied to this number, the fraud rate is “only” 12.4%.

Heck, $60 billion is over 0.4% of the entire country’s gross domestic product of $14 trillion or so.

It is highly unlikely that the fraud rate in the private sector, where losses such as these would reduce business income, hurt returns to shareholders, and likely bankrupt any business with controls as apparently sloppy as Uncle Sam’s, is anywhere near 12%.

And Medicare is what Democrats and other program advocates cite as the exemplar of why a so-called “public option” would be soooooo beneficial. Yikes.

Hopefully readers will pick up and pass on the lesson: In an AP report, after the headline and the first couple paragraphs, go to the final few paragraphs for the items you need to know, but which most casual news consumers will never read or hear.

Graphic was found at the EverythingHealth blog.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Pittsburgh Mayor’s Ultimatum to Universities: Pay City Millions, or See a Tax on Tuition

LukeRavenstahlPittsburghMayor1209

A breaking dispatch from the Associated Press sure makes it look like Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl (picture at top right is from his Wikipedia entry) is engaging in extortion directed at the institutions of higher education that happen to be within the city’s borders. The ostensible reason for the stickup is to shore up the city’s foundering pension system.

It will be interesting to see how or if the AP develops this story in the coming day before the possible Wednesday vote.

Also, the “first-of-its-kind” tax that Ravenstahl wants to impose has gotten surprisingly little national notice since he first proposed it in mid-November.

Anyway, here’s a graphic capture of the AP item:

APonPittsburghTuitionTax121509atNoo

If this isn’t extortion, someone will have to tell me what it is.

It will surprise no one that the tax-creative Ravenstahl is a Democrat. Though the situation may change in future updates, it will further surprise no one that the AP didn’t name his party.

A deeper look into his record gives indications that the 29 year-old Ravenstahl appears bound and determined to make us forget about the up-to-now worst big-city “boy mayor” in American history, Cleveland’s Dennis Kucinich. Kucinich, now an Ohio congressman and a comic sideshow Democratic presidential candidate in 2004 and 2008, brought his city to the brink of bankruptcy in the late 1970s, barely surviving a recall vote.

As to the tuition tax, though the best tax is usually one that doesn’t exist, this particular assessment might have a backhanded benefit. A levy so visible and so onerous might make collegians a bit more skeptical of the non-stop statism so many of their profs promulgate.

Commenters surely will have other thoughts on this, so have at it.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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BizzyBlog Update: From the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Ravenstahl pushes vote on tuition tax
Mayor sees ‘no commitment’ from university leaders on city’s finance effort

With a tenuous City Council majority willing to vote for a proposed tuition tax, Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl wants to see the levy tentatively approved tomorrow, despite the pledges of university leaders yesterday to work with the city on its finances if the tax is dropped.

“What we heard clearly was really no commitment from the nonprofit community to commit to anything tangible, or real,” Mr. Ravenstahl said, following a 2 1/2-hour public meeting that featured five higher education leaders and all 11 elected city officials. No one pledged to come up with the $5 million a year he has requested to avert the tuition tax, he said.

“One does not negotiate with an ax hanging over your head,” said Chatham University President Esther Barazzone, while joining her peers in calling for “a big-tent coalition to help to lead the city to a different future.” One caveat: “We cannot give up our nonprofit status.”

The 1 percent tuition levy is expected to raise slightly more than the $15 million a year the administration has said it needs to right the pension fund. The mayor said last week he would settle for one-third of that, plus an agreement with the universities to seek help in Harrisburg to cover the balance.

Yeah, it’s extortion.

If there’s any ironic satisfaction in this, it’s seeing the city’s elitist Democratic politicians acting like the authoritarians (Chavez, Castro, etc.) so many university profs so seem to love — but going after the institutions more than likely containing many of their mentors in the process.

By the way, has anyone attempted to explain that the tuition tax — if the money is actually used as intended, which I realize requires a willing suspension of disbelief — would constitute direct, undeniable intergenerational theft? The tax would largely be paid by young students. It would go directly to older retirees. That’s about as clear a case of legalized larceny as I’ve ever seen; and unlike Social Security and Medicare, there’s no pretense of a “Trust Fund” in between.

Lucid Links (121509, Morning)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 10:42 am

Whether the downturn is a still a recession is apparently a debatable matter in Liberal Land, and even within the Obama administration.

As I noted a few days ago (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), an Associated Press item by Martin Crutsinger last week was written as if the recession, which as normally defined ended in the third quarter (the fact that it was artificially influenced by excessive government largesse doesn’t change the fact that growth was positive), is still around and negatively impacting federal receipts five months later.

Obama economic adviser Larry Summers told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos Sunday that “everyone agrees that the recession is over.”

Meanwhile over at NBC, Christine Romer, another administration economic heavy hitter, told NBC’s David Gregory that “of course (it’s) not” when asked if the recession is over.

As easy as it would be to ridicule the inconsistency, the more important point is that the current Obama-media muddle shows why having an objective standard is necessary. The “normal people” definition of two or more consecutive quarters of negative economic growth is crystal clear. Subjective evaluations like the one done by the National Bureau of Economic Research, which still believes that a recession began in December 2007, aren’t. That’s why NBER should never have been named the official determiner of when a recession begins and ends, and the dictionary definition should rule.

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As I have watched the his Chevy ads, I can’t help but wonder what in the world Howie Long has been thinking.

Long has been a guest on Bill Bennett’s talk show, and this commenter at FreeRepublic in 2006 says that Long is a self-described conservative Republican. So I don’t get it, unless he’s locked into a contract that was inked well before GM became a ward of the state.

Every commercial for a GM or Chrysler product or service should carry a prominent disclosure that it was financed by taxpayer dollars.

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From the “Keep Your Kids Out of Public Schools” file (HT Michael Graham via Michelle Malkin), there’s this report from eponymously named in the circumstances Taunton, Massachusetts:

A Taunton father is outraged after his 8-year-old son was sent home from school and required to undergo a psychological evaluation after drawing a stick-figure picture of Jesus Christ on the cross.

The father said he got a call earlier this month from Maxham Elementary School informing him that his son, a second-grade student, had created a violent drawing. The image in question depicted a crucified Jesus with Xs covering his eyes to signify that he had died on the cross. The boy wrote his name above the cross.

“As far as I’m concerned, they’re violating his religion,” the incredulous father said.

…. The student drew the picture shortly after taking a family trip to see the Christmas display at the National Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette, a Christian retreat site in Attleboro. He made the drawing in class after his teacher asked the children to sketch something that reminded them of Christmas, the father said.

This isn’t just some isolated rogue teacher with hostility towards religion. Several school officials had to agree before the kid was sent home.

There’s a bitter irony at the school district’s web site, noted by Graham (bold and italics are the district’s) — “Nickname: The Christmas City due in large measure to elaborate annual Christmas displays.”

Positivity: Catholic medical clinic offers solution

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 7:06 am

From Madison, Wisconsin, as relevant today as it was in July:

Jul 21, 2009 / 08:33 am

As President Obama urges Congress to pass health care reform legislation by August, a medical clinic in Madison, Wisconsin is offering a novel way to address medical needs by offering free care for the uninsured. Patients with insurance only pay a single yearly fee for their care at Our Lady of Hope Clinic.

When Drs. Michael Kloess and Anne Volk Johnson became unhappy with the medical system in which they worked, they decided to found Our Lady of Hope Clinic. Their goal was to start a clinic where they could minister to the poor while being free to practice their Catholic faith fully.

Our Lady of Hope Clinic is “totally pro-life and totally Catholic,” developmental director Steven Karlen told CNA. “So they don’t have to dispense birth control, they don’t have to refer for sterilizations or in-vitro or abortion or anything of that nature. They can practice in complete accordance with the teachings of the Catholic Church.”

The ability for doctors to freely practice their Catholic faith is currently being challenged throughout the country as lawmakers debate whether or not to exempt workers from performing abortions, prescribing contraceptives, or participating in other activities that violate their consciences.

At Our Lady of Hope, Kloess and Johnson are able to live out their faith by practicing the corporal works of mercy and providing free care for the uninsured, particularly the “working poor,” those who are employed but do not have insurance through their jobs and cannot afford it on their own.

According to their by-laws, at least 50% of the care given at Our Lady of Hope will go to the uninsured, who can come in on a day-by-day walk-in basis and will receive no billing or other charges.

Go here for the rest of the story.