Accused Insurer Contributed Nearly $42K to Wisconsin Candidates

April 4, 2017

An insurance giant accused of fraud for allegedly overbilling the federal Medicare program has contributed nearly $42,000 since 2010 to Wisconsin legislative and statewide candidates.

Late last month, the U.S. Justice Department joined a California lawsuit that accuses UnitedHealth Group of overbilling the Medicare Advantage program by making their patient policyholders look sicker on paper than they actually are. One of the lawyers in the case said damages could top $1 billion. The Justice Department said it also is investigating payments to other Medicare Advantage insurers.

Medicare Advantage health plans are privately run and cover more than 18 million elderly and people with disabilities. Medicare Advantage costs U.S. taxpayers about $150 billion a year and cover about a third of those eligible for traditional Medicare.

The federal government is joining a lawsuit filed in 2009, and has asked a court to consolidate the case with another lawsuit filed in 2011 by a former UnitedHealth executive accusing the company of collecting hundreds of millions of dollars in overpayments from the program.

Between January 2010 and December 2016, UnitedHealth and Optum, one of the company’s subsidiaries, made $41,840 in large individual and political action committee contributions to about 40 legislative and statewide candidates and legislative campaign committees, which are controlled by legislative leaders to raise money from special interests to spend on elections.

Topping the list of UnitedHealth Group contributions were the:

Republican Assembly Campaign Committee, $6,000;

GOP Gov. Scott Walker, $4,325;

Committee to Elect a Republican Senate, $2,500;

State Senate Democratic Committee, $2,190;

Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, of Juneau, $2,100.