John McDonough has a good piece on an overlooked benefit from the Affordable Care Act: it’s doing quite well in combating fraud and abuse, which in turns saves Americans quite a bit of money. (via TOA)

Members of Congress of both parties often complain about fraud and abuse in Medicare and Medicaid (M&M), usually charging that the President is not doing enough to keep bad guys from stealing money from these vital programs.

Guess what? Thanks to provisions in the Affordable Care Act (ACA/ObamaCare) and to an unprecedented effort by the Obama Administration, more progress has been made in the past three years to combat health care fraud and abuse than ever before. There was a 68.9 percent increase in criminal health care fraud prosecutions from 2010 to 2011, and 2010 was already the highest ever.

McDonough helped work on the ACA’s provisions related to fraud prevention, and sketches out the areas in which the law is improving enforcement.

Part of the effort involves hyper-charged efforts to catch bad guys through the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), and a bigger part involves re-engineering the system to keep them out. For example, prior to the ACA, if a bad guy got kicked out of one state Medicaid program for fraud, he got kicked out of one program; under the ACA, when he gets kicked out of one, and he gets kicked out of all them, including Medicare. That’s smart, and that’s just a tiny bit of what the ACA does on fraud & abuse.

Let’s take stock for a moment, shall we? Much of the Affordable Care Act won’t take effect until 2014, assuming it survives until then. But provisions that are already in place have:

* brought coverage to 2.5 million young adults;

* delivered big savings for seniors on prescription drug costs;

* given a significant boost to small businesses through ACA tax credits;

* slowed the growth of Medicare spending;

* provided new treatment options for cancer patients like Spike Dolomite Ward;

* saved taxpayer money by cracking down on fraud;

* and offered new coverage protections for those with pre-existing conditions.

These are tangible, real-world benefits, making a meaningful difference in people’s lives. It’s also a reminder that the health care law, polls and attacks notwithstanding, is working.

Of course, all of these benefits and improvements will quickly disappear if Mitt Romney is elected and follows through on his commitment to repeal every letter of this law.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.