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Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), chairman of the Senate subcommittee on federal financial management, on Wednesday (July 27) highlighted a CMS Recovery Audit Program report that found $499.8 million in Medicare fee-for-service overpayments that were collected between October 2010 and June 2011. Recouped Medicare overpayments jumped from $81.2 million in Q1 to $185.2 million in Q2, and then to $233.4 million in Q3. Factoring in $92.7 million returned underpayments, CMS reported that it netted $407.1 million in adjusted payments for FY 2011.

"Our efforts to curb the billions of dollars in fraudulent and improper Medicare payments are paying off, but there's still more we can do," Carper said in a prepared statement, hailing what he said was CMS’ “remarkable progress” in payment recoveries during recent months as the nation grapples with record debt and deficits. He added that the government has lots more work to do, arguing that recent estimates have shown that improper Medicare fee-for-service payments may be as high as $34.3 billion per year.

Carper called on CMS to “step up” and “redouble” efforts to identify erroneous payments and “build upon these successes.” Describing Medicare overpayments as “low-hanging fruit” in the nation’s debt reduction efforts, he said the next step would be to look for patterns in improper payments and make efforts to prevent them from happening in the first place.

The Recovery Audit Program, which employs private contractors to identify Medicare overpayments to providers, was made permanent in 2006 legislation and required the HHS secretary to expand it to all 50 states no later than 2010.

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