In brief: Fraud, Invacare, Medicare premiums and more

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Fraud allegations continue in South Florida
MIAMI - After a weeklong investigation, state investigators have referred 40 cases of alleged fraud involving nebulizers for possible prosecution, the Miami Herald reported last week. The state's Medicaid program, the Agency for Health Care Administration, targeted South Florida, the area with "the single largest amount of Medicaid fraud in the country," Secretary Andrew Agwunobi told the newspaper. As part of the investigation, more than 50 state agents conducted more than 700 interviews, including patients of 200 physicians in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. Miami-Dade comprises about one-third of statewide nebulizer expenditures ($1.3 million). Agents found suspected criminal activity involving possibly forged prescriptions and forged papers stating that treatment was medically necessary.

Invacare spends $330,000 on lobbying
WASHINGTON - Invacare spent $330,000 to lobby the federal government in the first half of 2007, The Associated Press reported last week. The Elyria, Ohio-based manufacturer lobbied Congress on changes in the Medicare program that affected reimbursement for home medical equipment like oxygen tanks and wheelchairs. It also lobbied CMS, the FDA, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, and the White House.

CMS increases Medicare premium--but not by much
WASHINGTON - The standard monthly premium for Medicare Part B will increase to $96.40 in 2008, 3.1% more than last year's premium. The 2008 premium represents the smallest percentage increase in the premium since 2001, and it's $2.10 less than the increase in 2007. The premium covers physician services, outpatient hospital services, certain home health services, durable medical equipment and other items. Several factors call for the 3.1%, including growth in certain areas of Medicare's fee-for-service program.

Drug giant pulls plug on diabetes drug
NEW YORK - Pfizer will stop selling its inhaled insulin drug Exubera less than two years after introducing it, the drug giant announced last week. Sales of the drug amounted to less than 1% of the insulin market, the New York Times reported. Pfizer will take a charge of $2.8 billion for costs associated with Exubera, making it one of the most expensive failures in the history of the pharmaceutical industry, the newspaper reported. A diabetes specialist told the New York Times that inhaled insulin is "just not a practical way to treat" diabetics.