Nearly 100 doctors, nurses and other medical professionals in seven cities across the country were criminally charged with fraudulently billing Medicare for a total of $452 million. It was the second major sweep made this year by government officials in an attempt to clean up fraud in Medicare, the country’s health program for the elderly and disabled. Medicare is a $590 billion program that serves nearly 50 million people.
The allegations include billing the government for unnecessary ambulance rides, writing prescriptions for patients who did not qualify for them, and paying patients in food and cigarettes to attend programs that could later be billed for.
The investigation is part of a massive crackdown led by the Obama Administration aimed at charging people and businesses that waste, fraud and abuse Medicare. Investigators can now use software to evaluate reimbursement requests in real time and flag any possible irregularities that could signal fraud.
Those charged in the sweeps are what officials call “small-time operators” who try to make a living defrauding Medicare and Medicaid, a government program that insures the poor.
The crackdown should “send a clear message to those perpetrating or contemplating Medicare and Medicaid fraud – it’s time to start looking for another line of work,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebellus. Such abuse drives up health care costs and jeopardizes the strength of the Medicare program.
In addition to fraud and kickback charges, some of those charged are also facing allegations for identity theft and money laundering.
Source: Thomson Reuters