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General News    H3'ed 7/8/10

Will Berwick Help Shine a Light on Medicare Fraud at Universities?

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Message Roger Shuler
Yale recently agreed to pay $7.6 million to settle claims that its researchers overbilled on federally funded research grant. The Associated Press article mentions similar settlements have been reached at other institutions, including Northwestern, Johns Hopkins, Cornell, University of Connecticut, and UAB.

That list only scratches the surface of the problem. Other institutions that have had problems with research fraud include Harvard, University of Chicago, Duke, Stanford, University of Washington, University of Mississippi, University of Minnesota, University of Texas, New York University and . . . well, you get the idea; the problem is widespread.

The bottom line? Research universities have been eating, and cheating, at the federal trough for years--and mostly getting away with it. Obama, as part of his plan to reform our health-care system, has pledged to bring that to a halt. Our guess is that Dr. Donald Berwick will be a key ally in that effort.

We even have a helpful suggestion: Mr. President, why don't you and Dr. Berwick start at UAB, which ranks behind only the University of North Carolina and Duke University among Southern institutions raking in federal research dollars? And while you're at it, look at Rob Riley and his connections to UAB physicians.

UAB announced a few months back that, even amid the Bush Recession, it had reached $485 million in annual research funding, a new institutional record.

Obviously, UAB's research freight train still is chugging along. But is it running on the right tracks, on an ethical course? Our guess is that it probably is not. Obama and Dr. Berwick need to send some bounty hunters to the scene.

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I live in Birmingham, Alabama, and work in higher education. I became interested in justice-related issues after experiencing gross judicial corruption in Alabama state courts. This corruption has a strong political component. The corrupt judges are (more...)
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