Department of Justice Seal


FRIDAY, APRIL 24, 1998 (202) 616-2765

TDD (202) 514-1888

Statement of Eric H. Holder, Jr.

Deputy Attorney General

on the

Release of the HHS-Inspector General's Audit for FY 1997

Today's report by the HHS Inspector General demonstrates the serious and continuing threat that fraud and abuse pose to the Medicare Trust Fund. Fighting health care fraud and abuse is one of the Department's highest priorities, and last year DOJ prosecutors obtained more criminal convictions and civil settlements and judgments than ever before. Through these efforts, and in cooperation with the HHS Office of Inspector General and others, we were able to return almost $1 billion in criminal fines and civil and administrative remedies to the Medicare Trust Fund.

The modest decrease in total improper payments (which include everything from inadequate documentation to potential fraud) from $23 billion in 1996 to $20.3 billion in 1997 is a step in the right direction. However, in 1997 U.S. taxpayers lost the equivalent of more than $500 in improper payments for every one of the 38.5 million beneficiaries in the Medicare program. Through vigorous enforcement of federal law, we plan to continue the Department's aggressive effort to root out fraud and abuse from the Medicare program.

The HHS Inspector General's report makes clear that now is not the time to retreat from our current efforts or to weaken the tools we use to combat fraud and return funds to the Medicare Trust Fund. The Department's health care fraud program is a balanced one. We are committed to the tough but fair enforcement of federal civil and criminal laws, while also emphasizing the need to work in partnership with health care providers to promote compliance within the industry. We have no interest in punishing honest billing mistakes or other inadvertent billing errors. We must continue this approach as we seek to root out fraud and abuse from the Medicare Trust Fund.