Attorney General Eric Holder and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today released the annual Health Care Fraud and Abuse Control (HCFAC) Program report showing that for every dollar spent on health care-related fraud and abuse investigations through this and other programs in the last three years, the government recovered $8.10. This is the highest three-year average return on investment in the 17-year history of the HCFAC Program.
The government’s health care fraud prevention and enforcement efforts recovered a record-breaking $4.3 billion in taxpayer dollars in Fiscal Year (FY) 2013, up from $4.2 billion in FY 2012, from individuals and companies who attempted to defraud federal health programs serving seniors or who sought payments from taxpayers to which they were not entitled. Over the last five years, the administration’s enforcement efforts have recovered $19.2 billion, up from $9.4 billion over the prior five-year period. Since the inception of the program in1997, the HCFAC Program has returned more than $25.9 billion to the Medicare Trust Funds and treasury.
These recoveries, released today in the annual HCFAC Program report, demonstrate President Obama’s commitment to making the elimination of fraud, waste and abuse, particularly in health care, a top priority for the administration. This is the fifth consecutive year that the program has increased recoveries over the past year, climbing from $2 billion in FY 2008 to over $4 billion every year since FY 2011.
The success of this joint Department of Justice and HHS effort was made possible in part by the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), created in 2009 to prevent fraud, waste and abuse in Medicare and Medicaid and to crack down on individuals and entities that are abusing the system and costing American taxpayers billions of dollars.
“With these extraordinary recoveries, and the record-high rate of return on investment we’ve achieved on our comprehensive health care fraud enforcement efforts, we’re sending a strong message to those who would take advantage of their fellow citizens, target vulnerable populations, and commit fraud on federal health care programs,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “Thanks to initiatives like HEAT, our work to combat fraud has never been more cooperative or more effective. And our unprecedented commitment to holding criminals accountable, and securing remarkable results for American taxpayers, is paying dividends.”
“These impressive recoveries for the American taxpayer are just one aspect of the comprehensive anti-fraud strategy we have implemented since the passage of the Affordable Care Act,” said HHS Secretary Sebelius. “We’ve cracked down on tens of thousands health care providers suspected of Medicare fraud. New enrollment screening techniques are proving effective in preventing high risk providers from getting into the system, and the new computer analytics system that detects and stops fraudulent billing before money ever goes out the door is accomplishing positive results – all of which are adding to savings for the Medicare Trust Fund.”
The new authorities under the Affordable Care Act granted to HHS and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) were instrumental in clamping down on fraudulent activity in health care. In FY 2013, CMS announced the first use of its temporary moratoria authority granted by the Affordable Care Act. The action stopped enrollment of new home health or ambulance enrollments in three fraud hot spots around the country, allowing CMS and its law enforcement partners to remove bad actors from the program while blocking provider entry or re-entry into these already over-supplied markets.
The Justice Department and HHS have improved their coordination through HEAT and are currently operating Medicare Fraud Strike Force teams in nine areas across the country. The strike force teams use advanced data analysis techniques to identify high-billing levels in health care fraud hot spots so that interagency teams can target emerging or migrating schemes as well as chronic fraud by criminals masquerading as health care providers or suppliers. The Justice Department’s enforcement of the civil False Claims Act and the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act has produced similar record-breaking results. These combined efforts coordinated under HEAT have expanded local partnerships and helped educate Medicare beneficiaries about how to protect themselves against fraud.
In Fiscal Year 2013, the strike force secured records in the number of cases filed (137), individuals charged (345), guilty pleas secured (234) and jury trial convictions (46). Beyond these remarkable results, the defendants who were charged and sentenced are facing significant time in prison – an average of 52 months in prison for those sentenced in FY 2013, and an average of 47 months in prison for those sentenced since 2007.
In FY 2013, the Justice Department opened 1,013 new criminal health care fraud investigations involving 1,910 potential defendants, and a total of 718 defendants were convicted of health care fraud-related crimes during the year. The department also opened 1,083 new civil health care fraud investigations.
The strike force coordinated a takedown in May 2013 that resulted in charges by eight strike force cities against 89 individuals, including doctors, nurses and other licensed medical professionals, for their alleged participation in Medicare fraud schemes involving approximately $223 million in false billings. As a part of the May 2013 takedown, HHS also suspended or took other administrative action against 18 providers using authority under the health care law to suspend payments until an investigation is complete.
In March 2011, CMS began an ambitious project to revalidate all 1.5 million Medicare enrolled providers and suppliers under the Affordable Care Act screening requirements. As of September 2013, more than 535,000 providers were subject to the new screening requirements and over 225,000 lost the ability to bill Medicare due to the Affordable Care Act requirements and other proactive initiatives. Since the Affordable Care Act, CMS has also revoked 14,663 providers and suppliers’ ability to bill the Medicare program. These providers were removed from the program because they had felony convictions, were not operational at the address CMS had on file, or were not in compliance with CMS rules.
HHS and the Justice Department are leading historic efforts with the private sector to bring innovation to the fight against health care fraud. In addition to real-time data and information exchanges with the private sector, CMS’ Program Integrity Command Center worked with the HHS Office of the Inspector General and the FBI to conduct 93 missions to detect, investigate, and reduce improper payments in FY 2013.
From May 2013 through August 2013, CMS led an outreach and education campaign targeted to specific communities where Medicare fraud is more prevalent. This multimedia campaign included national television, radio, and print outreach and resulted in an increased awareness of how to detect and report Medicare fraud.
To read today’s report visit http://oig.hhs.gov/publications/docs/hcfac/FY2013-hcfac.pdf
For previous years’ reports visit https://oig.hhs.gov/reports-and-publications/hcfac/index.asp
For more information on the joint DOJ-HHS Strike Force activities, visit: www.StopMedicareFraud.gov/.