Medicare Fraud Strike Force operations in seven cities have led to charges against 91 individuals – including doctors, nurses and other licensed medical professionals – for their alleged participation in Medicare fraud schemes involving approximately $429.2 million in false billing, Attorney General Eric Holder and Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced today.
Attorney General Holder and Secretary Sebelius were joined in the announcement of the nationwide takedown by Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, FBI Associate Deputy Director Kevin Perkins, Inspector General Daniel R. Levinson of the HHS Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) and Dr. Peter Budetti, Deputy Administrator for Program Integrity of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
“Today’s enforcement actions reveal an alarming and unacceptable trend of individuals attempting to exploit federal health care programs to steal billions in taxpayer dollars for personal gain,” said Attorney General Holder. “Such activities not only siphon precious taxpayer resources, drive up health care costs, and jeopardize the strength of the Medicare program – they also disproportionately victimize the most vulnerable members of society, including elderly, disabled and impoverished Americans.”
“Today’s arrests put criminals on notice that we are cracking down hard on people who want to steal from Medicare,” said HHS Secretary Sebelius. “The health care law gives us new tools to better fight fraud and make Medicare stronger. In addition to the arrests made today, HHS used new authority from the health care law to stop future payments to many of the health care providers suspected of fraud, saving Medicare resources and taxpayer dollars from being lost to fraud in the first place.”
Dozens of charged individuals were arrested or surrendered in the last 24 hours as indictments were unsealed across the country. Together, those indictments charge more than $230 million in home health care fraud; more than $100 million in mental health care fraud and more than $49 million in ambulance transportation fraud; and millions more in other frauds.
I haven’t been writing much lately because my husband and I are now caring for my mother-in-law, who is disabled and can no longer live in her home. She now lives in the living room of my small home. To qualify for nursing home care, she may possibly have to sell her assets and leave nothing to her children, but that’s another story.
We have been handling all aspects of her care, including paying her bills. Looking over her statements from her insurance company and Medicare, I see the exorbitant amounts that the various healthcare entities charge, such as $400 a month to lease a wheelchair. One of her doctors charges the full amount for an office visit, despite the fact that his office is not wheelchair accessible, so he consults with her for ten to fifteen minutes over the phone.
We’ve heard a lot about Medicaid fraud by “welfare queens” and “illegals” who game the system. This story shows that businesses are succeeding in defrauding the government at great cost to taxpayers. Comprehensive reform of the healthcare system from coverage to fraud control is necessary to keep the system efficient and solvent for future generations.