U.S. charges 111 in largest Medicare fraud crackdown

WASHINGTON Thu Feb 17, 2011 3:59pm EST

Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and Attorney General Eric Holder hold a news conference to announce Medicare Fraud Strike Force law enforcement actions in Washington, February 17, 2011. REUTERS/Jim Young

Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and Attorney General Eric Holder hold a news conference to announce Medicare Fraud Strike Force law enforcement actions in Washington, February 17, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Jim Young

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. government on Thursday charged 111 doctors, nurses and other defendants with Medicare crime schemes that exceeded $225 million in false billings, the largest health care fraud crackdown so far.

Attorney General Eric Holder and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced the charges in the latest of a series of cases brought by the Obama administration as health care fraud has emerged as an important political issue.

About 45 million elderly and disabled Americans are enrolled in taxpayer-funded Medicare plans, which have come under fire from critics who say the government pays too much to the companies running them and that they are subject to fraud.

Medicare reform represented a key part of the sweeping year-old health care law championed by Democratic President Barack Obama, but opposed by many Republicans in Congress.

The latest charges covered defendants in nine cities. In addition to arrests, law enforcement agents also executed 16 search warrants.

The defendants were charged various crimes, including conspiracy to defraud the Medicare program, false claims, kickbacks and money laundering, administration officials said.

They said the alleged schemes involved various medical treatments, tests and services, such as home health care, physical and occupational therapy and medical equipment.

"Although today marks a critical step forward in combating and deterring illegal activity, our work is far from over," Holder said. Fraud has accounted for as much as an estimated $60 billion a year in the Medicare program.

A top FBI official, Shawn Henry, said 2,600 health care fraud cases were under investigation and that organized crime groups have been increasingly linked to the alleged schemes.

Sebelius said $4 billion was recovered last year, and the government's Medicare Fraud Strike Force was recently expanded to nine cities, with the addition of Dallas and Chicago.

(Reporting by James Vicini; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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Comments (16)
ilaboo wrote:
cannot wait when the system starts to hit medicaid fraud–that my friend is where the big bucks are–dont believe it?–ask your physician–we deal with it every day

Feb 17, 2011 4:05pm EST  --  Report as abuse
ilaboo wrote:
cannot wait when the system starts to hit medicaid fraud–that my friend is where the big bucks are–dont believe it?–ask your physician–we deal with it every day

Feb 17, 2011 4:05pm EST  --  Report as abuse
OCTheo wrote:
Good job, Mr Holder. I thought Obama said to look forward, and forget the past.

When are you going to start prosecuting the oil and gas environmental polluters, the bank fraudsters, the lobbyists, the torturers at the Guantanamo Bay and Iraq, perjurers who lied to the congress and the UN to start the wars, etc? Or are those exempted?

You can’t prosecute some and exclude others. Equal justice under the law, or prosecution to those who couldn’t donate to the campaign?

Feb 17, 2011 4:06pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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