- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 25, 2009

TRAFFIC SAFETY

Unofficial ‘clunkers’ Web sites pop up

The government is warning consumers to be wary of unofficial “cash for clunkers” Web sites that seek personal information or direct consumers to preregister for the program.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says dealers and consumers do not need to preregister for the program, which provides $3,500 to $4,500 to people who trade in gas-guzzling clunkers for a new vehicle.

Traffic safety spokesman Rae Tyson says the government has an official site for the program at www.cars.gov.

Miss Tyson says some Web sites have offered preapproval sections that request a consumer’s Social Security number and other personal information.

The traffic safety administration has given information about these unofficial sites to the Justice Department’s Internet Fraud division.

HOUSE

Murtha says error made on helicopters

The chairman of a powerful House subcommittee that funds the military said Wednesday that he hopes at least some of the $3.2 billion spent for a new fleet of presidential helicopters can be salvaged.

The military stopped production on the heavily over-budget VH-71 helicopter program, estimated to cost $13 billion, at the White House’s request. The Navy is reviewing options to restart the process.

Rep. John P. Murtha, Pennsylvania Democrat, told defense writers that he and other lawmakers are trying to persuade the administration to use at least some of what’s already been spent. Mr. Murtha said he thinks the White House was responding to bad publicity about the project, but that it made a decision that doesn’t make sense financially.

Mr. Murtha said: “$3.2 billion spent on the VH-71 and we get nothing out of it? That’s unacceptable.”

The new fleet was ordered by President George W. Bush after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks because of security concerns. As new requirements were added, the project became six years behind schedule and the price tag of the heavily equipped helicopters doubled to $13 billion.

SECURITY

Study: Radiation detectors too costly

The government shouldn’t buy more of the new radiation detection machines it’s been developing to look for smuggled nuclear materials at ports, a report from the National Research Council says.

The new machines are only marginally better at detecting hidden nuclear material than monitors already at U.S. ports, but would cost more than twice as much, says the report released Wednesday.

It echoes concerns raised by Congress and the Government Accountability Office about the government’s next generation radiation detectors.

Instead of purchasing more of the new machines, the government should deploy the devices it already has to ports and test them there, said the research council, part of the National Academy of Sciences.

Because the threat of smuggled nuclear material and the technology to detect threats will continue to evolve, the Homeland Security Department should focus on deploying new machines incrementally instead of all at once, the report said.

Homeland Security oversees the development of these machines for ports. The department has already spent $235 million on the new devices and could spend more than $1 billion.

HEALTH INSURANCE

Senator: Faulty data use is ‘pervasive’

Congressional investigators said Wednesday that two-thirds of the U.S. health insurance industry used a faulty database that overcharged patients for seeing doctors outside their insurance network, costing Americans billions of dollars in inflated medical bills.

The flawed database - known as Ingenix - is owned by health insurer UnitedHealth, which agreed in January to pay $350 million to settle allegations that it deliberately kept rates low to underpay doctors, driving up out-of-pocket expenses for patients.

An investigation by Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, West Virginia Democrat, shows that nearly 20 regional and national insurers also used Ingenix data. An ongoing probe by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo previously focused on the use of Ingenix data by only a handful of top insurers, including Aetna, Wellpoint and Cigna. About a dozen insurers, including UnitedHealth have already reached settlements with Mr. Cuomo.

MEDICARE

Feds indict 53 in fraud case

Federal authorities indicted 53 people Wednesday for schemes to cheat Medicare out of $50 million.

Suspects were arrested in Detroit, Miami, and Denver as part of a wide-ranging effort by the government to crack down on those suspected of defrauding the government-funded health care program for the elderly and disabled.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III announced the charges at a news conference in Washington.

WHITE HOUSE

Jill Biden to visit kin of troops in Europe

The wife of Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. will head to Europe to meet with military family members for Independence Day and will speak to a U.N. conference on higher education.

The White House announced Wednesday that Jill Biden will visit Germany and France on July 3-7. She’ll spend the July 4 holiday with military members and their families stationed in Germany.

She’ll then head to Paris to deliver a keynote address at the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization conference on higher education July 5. Mrs. Biden, a college professor, will lead the U.S. delegation to that conference.

From combined dispatches and staff reports


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