In a major, coordinated crackdown on healthcare fraud, U.S. federal law enforcement officials have charged 91 people with cheating Medicare of $295 million.
The dollar value of the alleged frauds is the largest amount of false billings of the healthcare program for elderly and disabled Americans that the U.S. government has prosecuted since the Obama administration created its Medicare Fraud Strike Force in 2009.
According to National Journal:
The Medicare Fraud Strike Force, a joint effort of the Health and Human Services and Justice departments, has been working hard to make high-profile arrests, as preventing Medicare fraud is an area the Obama administration has tried to highlight as a benefit of the 2010 health-reform law.
Federal prosecutors and investigators have charged more than 1,140 defendants with falsely billing Medicare for more than $2.9 billion since 2007, according to Bloomberg News.
"Some of the most vulnerable among us – including seniors suffering from dementia and Alzheimer's disease – were exploited by those willing to steal precious taxpayer resources," U.S. Attorney General Holder said at the news conference announcing the charges.
Suspects involved in the many unrelated schemes, including the management of a community mental-health clinic in Miami and doctors and nurses, were arrested over the past three weeks, with 70 people charged on Tuesday and Wednesday, BBC News reports.
Charges were filed in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Brooklyn, New York; Chicago; Dallas; Detroit; Houston; Los Angeles; and Miami, Bloomberg News reports. About half the false billings occurred in Miami, known as a hotbed of healthcare fraud.
The crimes included conspiracy to defraud Medicare, violating anti-kickback statutes and money laundering. The Justice Department accused the Biscayne Milieu Health Center Inc. in Miami of paying recruiters to refer ineligible patients.
“Today’s arrests are a powerful warning to those who would try to defraud taxpayers,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement.