WASHINGTON (AP) — You can find it on the Internet for $250 or less. But if Medicare is paying, a standard-issue brace for back patients costs more than $900.

In a report expected Wednesday, federal investigators say Medicare paid an average of $919 for back braces that cost suppliers $191 apiece, providing a window on how wasteful spending drives up health care costs.

"The program and its beneficiaries could have paid millions of dollars less if the Medicare reimbursement amount … more closely resembled the cost to suppliers," says the report from the inspector general of the Health and Human Services Department. The Associated Press obtained a copy.

In a written response, Medicare Administrator Marilyn Tavenner said the findings provide valuable insight into the inner workings of her program. Medicare will consider including back braces in a competitive bidding plan for medical equipment, she said. The bidding experiment, expanding across the country, already has been shown to save taxpayers money.

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