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By Fred Schulte, Kaiser Health News 

Federal health officials made more than $16 billion in improper payments to private Medicare Advantage health plans last year and need to crack down on billing errors by the insurers, a top congressional auditor testified Wednesday.

James Cosgrove, who directs health care reviews for the Government Accountability Office, told the House Ways and Means oversight subcommittee that the Medicare Advantage improper payment rate was 10 percent in 2016, which comes to $16.2 billion.

Adding in the overpayments for standard Medicare programs, the tally for last year approached $60 billion — which is almost twice as much as the National Institutes of Health spends on medical research each year.

By Brian Joseph, FairWarning bigtrucks

A $305 billion highway bill approved by Congress and signed by President Obama last week includes several provisions aggressively sought by the trucking industry that, critics say, will undermine traffic safety.

The long-awaited legislation – known as the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation, or FAST, Act – removes truck safety ratings from a public Department of Transportation website. It also creates a pilot program to put drivers as young as 18 behind the wheel of a big rig if they have received military training to operate a similar vehicle. The law also will slow efforts to raise the insurance requirements for big rigs, which have been required to carry a minimum of $750,000 in liability coverage since 1985.

By Ronnie Greene, iWatch News by The Center for Public Integrity 

Haitian farm workers pick beans on a farm in Homestead in 2010

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Laboring in the blackberry fields of central Arkansas, the 18-year-old Mexican immigrant suddenly turned ill. Her nose began to bleed, her skin developed a rash, and she vomited.

The doctor told her it was most likely flu or bacterial infection, but farmworker Tania Banda-Rodriguez suspected pesticides. Under federal law, growers must promptly report the chemicals they spray.

By Rick Schmitt, Fair Warning.org 

Anti-helmet law demonstrators at a May 21 rally at the state capitol in Albany, N.Y. Photo: Skip Dickstein/Albany Times Union

WASHINGTON – In a highly touted safety achievement, deaths on the nation’s roads and highways have fallen sharply in recent years, to the lowest total in more than a half-century. But motorcyclists have missed out on that dramatic improvement, and the news for them has been increasingly grim.

So it might be no surprise that biker groups are upset with Washington. The twist is what they are asking lawmakers and regulators to do: Back away from promoting or enforcing requirements for safe helmets, the most effective way known to save bikers’ lives.