May 29, 2020 / 7:39 PM / a month ago

House Democrats launch inquiry into Medicare stimulus payouts

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two U.S. House of Representatives Democrats on Friday launched an inquiry into whether the Health and Human Services Department misdirected billions of dollars in coronavirus stimulus money to healthcare providers facing criminal or civil fraud investigations.

Reps. Lloyd Doggett (L) and Katie Porter (R) are seen in this combination photo. REUTERS/Office of Rep. Lloyd Doggett/Handout/Erin Scott

In a letter to Secretary Alexander Azar, Representatives Lloyd Doggett and Katie Porter accused the department of evading questions about how it decided to dole out $50 billion for its provider relief fund and demanded answers about how the funds will be clawed back from possible fraudsters.

Reuters reported exclusively this month that HHS had sent Medicare providers under criminal and civil investigations stimulus money, after it direct-deposited $30 billion into the bank accounts of any medical provider who billed Medicare for services in 2019.

Doggett and Porter cited Reuters’ reporting in their letter.

“Funds meant for frontliners went to hospitals previously closed, mega-corporations, and possible fraudsters,” Doggett said in a statement. “The Trump Administration should immediately provide a full accounting of how these millions landed, as they so often do with this Administration, in the pockets of corporate interests and those under investigation for fraud.”

An HHS spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the letter.

Reuters could not determine what portion of the recipients are facing such inquiries.

After sending the funds, HHS asked all the providers to sign a lengthy attestation that stipulates they have been or will be treating patients suffering from COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

Those who do not respond by HHS’ deadline will be assumed to have accepted the terms and conditions.

HHS previously told Reuters it has mechanisms in place to recoup the funds and address fraud.

Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch and Marisa Taylor; Editing by Scott Malone and Chizu Nomiyama

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