Just the facts

In a recent column, Mark Weisbrot chastised private insurers as “the biggest source of waste” in the U.S. healthcare system (“Pro: Health care law is a hopeful step forward,” Dec. 30). The facts suggest otherwise.

In 2010, fraudulent or otherwise improper Medicare payments totaled $48 billion, according to the Government Accountability Office. That’s quadruple the combined profits of the 10 largest health insurance companies — and represents nearly 10 percent of what Medicare spent that year.

At the same time, Medicare and Medicaid underpay legitimate healthcare providers by as much as 20 percent. To compensate, hospitals and doctors charge patients with private insurance more. In fact, the average family pays an extra $1,500 in premiums annually thanks to such federally induced cost shifting.

Janet Trautwein

Executive Vice President and CEO

National Association of Health Underwriters

Washington, D.C.

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