Major government program spends billions but filled with shortcomings

MGN Online

WASHINGTON (Sinclair Broadcast Group) - On Capitol Hill, there’s a lot of talk about how to save money, with lawmakers often pointing the finger at those programs which cost the most.

During a Feb. 8 news conference, Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wiss., said: “We need to get back to focusing on the true driver of our debt crisis. It’s really healthcare inflation, entitlements.”

So-called entitlements, programs like social security, Medicare and Medicaid are easy to talk about, but often hard to touch.

But a new report from the Government Accountability Office found more than $100 billion of the $300 billion spent on Medicaid goes to programs called demonstrations.

“Demonstrations are essentially like pilot programs. They allow states to experiment with different ways of better delivery of programs and cost cutting,” said Peter Schweizer, President, Government Accountability Institute, a Government Watchdog Group.

Schweizer said on the surface, demonstrations are great ideas, but once the money is spent on a program there’s no way to know how or if it’s even working.

“It’s not as if you want them to report about every single paper clip and every single pencil but you have to have some sort of measure because how do you know that what you’re doing is effective or is even saving money if you don’t have a yard stick?” Schweizer said.

Several states spend more than 50 percent of their Medicaid funding on these demonstrations, again with no report card.

The GAO is now recommending written evaluations for these demonstrations be established, and policies for making findings of these evaluations public.

The Department of Health and Human Services did not respond to a request for comment for this story, but government watchdogs said it’s up to Congress to take action.

They are the ones who control the purse strings and could demand more accountability in the future.

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