Medicare fraud crackdown brings 30 indictments

Physicians are among those charged with bilking millions from Medicare as federal strike teams expand their reach.

By Chris Silva — Posted Dec. 29, 2009

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The government said it continues to make progress in its war against Medicare fraud, announcing the expansion of anti-fraud strike teams to new metropolitan areas and issuing another round of charges for people accused of filing millions in false claims.

Senior officials from the Depts. of Justice and Health and Human Services announced Dec. 15 that 30 physicians, business owners, executives and others have been charged in three cities for allegedly submitting about $61 million in false Medicare claims.

In conjunction with the indictments, the officials announced the expansion of anti-fraud operations to Brooklyn, N.Y.; Tampa, Fla.; and Baton Rouge, La. Branches already operate in Miami, Los Angeles, Houston and Detroit. These strike teams will allow the government to concentrate on known fraud hotbeds, officials said.

"Medicare is a sacred promise to America's seniors, and we will do everything we can to protect it," HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said. "The announcement we're making today is a significant step towards securing Medicare for seniors today and generations to come."

In May, HHS and the Justice Dept. announced the creation of a new initiative -- the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team, or HEAT -- to help step up its anti-fraud efforts.

The two departments announced on June 24 that they were filing criminal charges against 53 individuals -- including doctors, beneficiaries, business owners and employees -- for allegedly submitting more than $50 million in false Medicare claims in the Detroit area.

"When President Obama took office, he promised a new commitment to cracking down on the criminals who steal billions from Medicare each year through fraudulent claims," Sebelius said.

Since March 2007, anti-fraud teams have obtained indictments of more than 460 individuals and organizations for fraudulently billing Medicare to the tune of more than $1 billion.

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