Bill Advances to Combat Improper Payments

Congress recently passed a bipartisan bill sponsored by Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) to improve efforts to identify and reduce improper payments across the government. The bill, which is cosponsored by Senators Ron Johnson (R-WI), Gary Peters (D-MI), and Mike Braun (R-IN), requires agencies to develop additional plans to prevent improper payments and improve the way they are identified.

Improper payments are exactly like they sound: overpayments or underpayments made to the wrong people, at the wrong time, for the wrong reason, or with the wrong documentation.

Senator Carper has long aimed to try to drive down the amount of improper payments, waste, and fraud. In 2010, President Obama signed Senator Carper’s Improper Payment Elimination and Recovery Act, with a goal of cutting those payments by $50 billion by 2012.

In Fiscal Year 2017, government agencies estimated that about $141 billion in improper payments were made from 90 programs throughout 21 agencies, the bulk of which were related to Medicare, Medicaid, and the Earned Income Tax Credit. Reducing the amount of improper payments is a challenge; as the Government Accountability Office describes, “the federal government has consistently been unable to determine the full extent of improper payments and whether its actions to reduce them are appropriate.” Tools like Senator Carper’s bill can help.

When Senator Carper introduced the bill, he stated his reasoning:

Government officials have a responsibility to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars. That’s why, for years, I have worked across the aisle to assess federal government spending and root out and eliminate billions of taxpayer dollars in waste, fraud and abuse. However, we know that, year after year, the federal government continues to mismanage billions of dollars through improper payments. We can and must do more to better manage government spending – whether it’s providing federal agencies the data they need to prevent improper payments to deceased people or requiring agencies to make more complete estimates of payments.

The Payment Integrity Information Act of 2019 requires agencies to undertake more efforts to prevent improper payments, improve the way at-risk programs are identified, improve compliance reporting, and create a working group with other partners, such as state governments, to identify additional strategies.

Thanks to the work of many members, including the sponsor of the House companion bill Representative Angie Craig (D-MN) and House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), the House passed the bill last week, and it is now awaiting the President’s signature to become law.

We appreciate efforts by Senator Carper and others to seek bipartisan solutions to decrease improper payments and increase trust in government. Reducing improper payments could result in significant savings, which is a positive step towards the large challenge of our unsustainable debt trajectory.