|Medicare Fraud strike force charges 89 individuals for approximately $223 million in false billing|
Attorney General Eric Holder and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced today that a nationwide takedown by Medicare Fraud Strike Force operations in eight cities has resulted in charges against 89 individuals, including doctors, nurses and other licensed medical professionals, for their alleged participation in Medicare fraud schemes involving approximately $223 million in false billings.
This coordinated takedown was the sixth national Medicare fraud takedown in Strike Force history. In total, almost 600 individuals have been charged in connection with schemes involving almost $2 billion in fraudulent billings in these national takedown operations alone.
The Medicare Fraud Strike Force operations are part of the Health Care Fraud Prevention & Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), a joint initiative announced in May 2009 between the Department of Justice and HHS to focus their efforts to prevent and deter fraud and enforce current anti-fraud laws around the country.
Since their inception in March 2007, Strike Force operations in nine locations have charged more than 1,500 defendants who collectively have falsely billed the Medicare program for more than $5 billion. In addition, CMS, working in conjunction with HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.
"Today's announcement marks the latest step forward in our comprehensive efforts to combat fraud and abuse in our health-care systems," said Attorney General Holder. "These significant actions build on the remarkable progress that the HEAT has enabled us to make - alongside key federal, state, and local partners - in identifying and shutting down fraud schemes. They are helping to deter would-be criminals from engaging in fraudulent activities in the first place. And they underscore our ongoing commitment to protecting the American people from all forms of health-care fraud, safeguarding taxpayer resources and ensuring the integrity of essential health-care programs."
"The Affordable Care Act has given us additional tools to preserve Medicare and protect the tens of millions of Americans who rely on it each day," said Secretary Sebelius. "By expanding our authority to suspend Medicare payments and reimbursements when fraud is suspected, the law allows us to better preserve the system and save taxpayer dollars. Today we're sending a strong, clear message to anyone seeking to defraud Medicare: You will get caught and you will pay the price. We will protect a sacred trust and an earned guarantee."
The defendants charged are accused of various health care fraud-related crimes, including conspiracy to commit health care fraud, violations of the anti-kickback statutes and money laundering. The charges are based on a variety of alleged fraud schemes involving various medical treatments and services, primarily home health care, but also mental health services, psychotherapy, physical and occupational therapy, durable medical equipment (DME) and ambulance services.
According to court documents, the defendants allegedly participated in schemes to submit claims to Medicare for treatments that were medically unnecessary and often never provided. In many cases, court documents allege that patient recruiters, Medicare beneficiaries and other co-conspirators were paid cash kickbacks in return for supplying beneficiary information to providers, so that the providers could then submit fraudulent billing to Medicare for services that were medically unnecessary or never performed. Collectively, the doctors, nurses, licensed medical professionals, health care company owners and others charged are accused of conspiring to submit a total of approximately $223 million in fraudulent billing.
"We have made it part of our core mission at the Department of Justice to hold accountable those who steal from the Medicare program to line their own pockets," said Acting Assistant Attorney General Raman. "There are Medicare fraudsters in prisons across the country - some who will be there for decades - who can attest to our determination, and our effectiveness."
"We all feel the effects of health care fraud," said FBI Assistant Director Hosko. "It leads to higher health care costs and makes it harder for seniors and those who are ill to get the care they need. The FBI and our law enforcement partners are committed to preventing and prosecuting health care fraud at all levels. But we need the public's help. Take the time to be aware of fraud and call law enforcement if you see anything suspicious included in the billings to your insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid or have any unusual encounters with health care providers. We can work together to ensure your hard-earned dollars are used to care for the sick and not to line the pockets of criminals."
"Taxpayers expect us to work harder and smarter, and that is exactly what happened across the nation today," said HHS Inspector General Levinson. "In addition to the work of my agents and other federal, state, and local law enforcement officials, investigators from nine other IG offices joined us today. Working together we can break down silos, pool expertise, reduce costs, and the successful result speaks for itself."
"Today's takedown is the result of dedicated commitment to working with our law enforcement partners to root out fraud in the Medicare program," said CMS Program Integrity Deputy Administrator Budetti. "This collaboration has been strengthened by the Affordable Care Act, which provided CMS with the tools it needs to stop the flow of money while working to rid our programs of fraud, waste and abuse."
The Heat is on.... okay I could not resist and Beverly Hills Cop song came into mind song by Glenn Frey