Fox's Rove Falsely Claims That Social Security, Medicare Lack Fraud Protection

Fox News analyst Karl Rove falsely attributed the increased Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) beneficiaries to a lack of fraud protection programs in the system. In fact Medicare, Medicaid and SSDI have fraud programs in place to detect, prevent, and recover money from the relatively few instances of documented fraud.  

 On the October 8 edition of Fox's The O'Reilly Factor, Bill O'Reilly hosted Rove to explain the “big disability con” he believes explains the increase in SSDI recipients. Rove attributed the increased number of recipients to fraud as claimed by Sen. Tom Coburn's (R-OK) investigation cited in a misleading segment on CBS' 60 Minutes. Rove claimed that more people apply for disability because “there are no fraud protections in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. None.”

But fraud protections do exist in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. The Department of Health and Human Services has issued a fact sheet detailing its program to prevent, detect, and report Medicare fraud. The fact sheet detailed laws in place that that punish Medicare fraud, which criminalizes the government being overcharged or knowingly defrauded by recipients, doctors, or third parties.  It also provides information on partnerships with other government agencies and programs which help find and report fraud and abuse.  

The HHS' Office of the Inspector General website details the government's Medicaid fraud program, known as Medicaid Fraud Control Units (MFCUs).  The MFCUs “investigate and prosecute Medicaid fraud as well as patient abuse.” The MFCUs reported “conducting 15,531 investigations, of which 11,660 were related to Medicaid fraud,” and states reported $2.9 billion in recoveries for civil and criminal cases handled by the MFCUs.

The Office of the Inspector General also maintains a program to reduce and respond to SSDI fraud. The Cooperative Disability Investigation Program “investigate disability claims under SSA's Title II and Title XVI programs that State disability examiners believe are suspicious.” The CDI obtains evidence for disability examiners before benefits are paid and provides reports for continuing disability reviews “that can be used to cease benefits of in-payment beneficiaries.” The program reported $339.6 million in projected savings to SSDI programs in fiscal year 2012. The program also publishes reports on the convictions of the most egregious fraud and abuses of the system found by investigators.

O'Reilly and Rove also misled on the extent of fraud in the SSDI program, echoing Coburn's claims that it may be as much as 25 percent. In fact, former Social Security commissioner Michael Astrue explained that fraud constitutes less than 1 percent of SSDI payments.