Medicare’s Overspending Habits

This really burns me up.

Today’s New York Times is running an article called, “Oxygen Suppliers Fight to Keep a Medicare Boon.” The title is somewhat obtuse as it obscures the underlying bad habits of Medicare and their frequent overpayment for everything from oxygen equipment to walking canes.

Despite enormous buying power, Medicare pays far more. Rather than buy oxygen equipment outright, Medicare rents it for 36 months before patients take ownership[…].


Medicare spends billions of dollars each year on products and services that are available at far lower prices from retail pharmacies and online stores, according to an analysis of federal data by The New York Times. The government agency has paid above-market costs for dozens of items, a comparison of Medicare figures with retail catalogs finds.

[L]ast year Medicare spent more than $21 million on pumps to help older and disabled men attain erections, paying about $450 for the same device that is available online for as little as $108. Even for a simple walking cane, which can be purchased online for about $11, the government pays $20, according to government data.

And as if this isn’t bad enough:

But when officials and politicians have tried to cut these costs, they have often encountered a powerful foe: the companies that sell these devices, who ask their elderly customers to serve, in effect, as unpaid lobbyists, calling and writing to their representatives in Congress, protesting at rallies, and even participating in political attacks against individual lawmakers who take on the issue.

So first they mislead the elderly who need these services by telling them that the government is going to wholly do away with these benefits rather than just fix them (which is patently untrue) and then they recruit the same group of people to work for free to perpetuate the very system that is harming them by its inefficiency. Outrageous.

The worst lobbying offenders are:


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