Photo (cc) by Keith Allison
The U.S. Department of Justice announced Wednesday it has charged 301 people in a nationwide crackdown on health care fraud.
The sweep of suspects arrested in 36 federal districts included 61 doctors, nurses, health clinic owners and other licensed medical professionals. They are facing civil and criminal charges for allegedly participating in Medicare fraud totaling $900 million in losses. The coordinated takedown is the largest in history, both in terms of the number of defendants charged and the loss amount, according to the DOJ.
The majority of cases involve false billings to Medicare or Medicaid for medical treatments that were either deemed not medically necessary or were never provided. The fraud covered a broad range of medical services, including psychotherapy, home health care, physical and occupational therapy and writing phony prescriptions.
The defendants face a variety of charges, among them conspiracy to commit health care fraud, violations of anti-kickback statutes, money laundering and aggravated identity theft.
“Health care fraud is not an abstract violation or benign offense. It is a serious crime,” U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a statement. “They target real people — many of them in need of significant medical care. They promise effective cures and therapies, but they provide none. Above all, they abuse basic bonds of trust — between doctor and patient; between pharmacist and doctor; between taxpayer and government — and pervert them to their own ends.”
In one instance, a Detroit clinic that was actually a front for a narcotics diversion scheme falsely billed Medicare for more than $36 million. In another case, the managers of a physical therapy clinic in New York City allegedly laundered money, paid kickbacks and billed both Medicaid and Medicare for treatments for patients that were deemed unnecessary.
“These criminals target the most vulnerable in our society by taking money away from the care of the elderly, children and disabled,” said FBI Associate Deputy Director David Bowdich.
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