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Report finds billions in federal waste due to overlap, duplication

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A Congressional watchdog released a report Wednesday that identified ways to save taxpayers billions of dollars by reducing fragmentation, overlap and duplication across the federal government.

“By addressing this year’s targeted list … the federal government could potentially save tens of billions of dollars, significantly enhance revenues and make government programs work better for the American people,” Comptroller General of the United States Gene Dodaro said in a statement.

The 126-page U.S. Government Accountability Office report outlined 100 corrective measures in 35 areas that lawmakers and federal agencies could take to save money and improve efficiency and effectiveness.

U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-New Hampshire, said Wednesday that previous actions taken based the Government Accountability Office’s annual recommendations have saved taxpayers more than $600 billion, including $70 billion in the last year.

“We’re discouraged by the high levels of waste and fraud and abuse that were associated with our COVID relief effort,” U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said Wednesday during a U.S. Senate subcommittee.

One of the recommendations that could save taxpayers the most involves federal employee benefits. The report found the Office of Personnel Management could save hundreds of millions of dollars or more each year by implementing a monitoring mechanism to identify and remove ineligible family members from the Federal Employees Health Benefits program.

The Federal Employees Health Benefits program provides insurance benefits to more than 8 million federal employees, family members and others. It is the largest employer-sponsored health care program in the U.S. In fiscal year 2021, the program cost about $59 billion.

The Government Accountability Office report said the Office of Personnel Management could save hundreds of millions of dollars or more a year by better identifying and removing people who are ineligible.

“Until 2021, employing offices at federal agencies were not required to review eligibility documentation to verify family member eligibility,” according to the report. “This left the program vulnerable to fraud and improper payments associated with ineligible family members.”

Cost for ineligible benefits can add up.

In one case, a a federal employee fraudulently covered two people he claimed were his wife and stepchild. Those two people, who were not actually his wife and child, remained on the Federal Employees Health Benefits health insurance for about 12 years and the program paid claims of more than $100,000 on behalf of two ineligible people.

“Removing ineligible family members from the program is essential for preventing and detecting fraud and improper payments in the program,” according to the report. “Until OPM implements a monitoring mechanism, more ineligible participants and related improper payments in the program may continue to accrue, costing the program approximately $360 million to $1 billion per year.”

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