Levin-Coleman bill would bar payments for MDs who don't pay taxes

Associated Press
http://www.chicagotribune.com

WASHINGTON — Sens. Norm Coleman and Carl Levin are introducing legislation this week aimed at withholding payments for doctors and other health care providers who owe federal taxes but still receive government checks for treating Medicare patients.

The bill comes following a congressional investigation which estimated in March that 21,000 physicians and other health care providers owed $1.3 billion in back taxes in the first nine months of 2005, yet were still receiving Medicare payments.

Levin, D-Mich., and Coleman, R-Minn., are the chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which authorized the congressional investigation.

The new legislation would require that the Department of Health and Human Service’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services participate in the Federal Payment Levy Program, which levies payments to delinquent taxpayers from the federal government until the outstanding tax debt is paid.

“Due to the fact that CMS has failed to participate in the Federal Payment Levy Program, we have missed countless opportunities to recover hundreds of millions of dollars in unpaid federal taxes,” Coleman said.

Levin said, “While the vast majority of Medicare health care providers are honest, taxpaying citizens, others have been stuffing taxpayer dollars in their pockets at the same time they have been stiffing Uncle Sam by not paying their taxes.”

Another provision in the bill would authorize the recovery of non-tax debt, such as student loans and unpaid child support.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services had no immediate comment on the bill.
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