Remarks as prepared for delivery.
Good afternoon and thank you for being here. I’m joined here today by my colleagues, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and FBI Director Robert Mueller.
Just a few weeks ago, Secretary Sebelius and I announced an unprecedented, united effort by the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services to combat healthcare waste, fraud, and abuse by launching the Healthcare Fraud Prevention & Enforcement Action Team or HEAT. The HEAT Task Force, which is co-chaired by Deputy Attorney General David Ogden and HHS Deputy Secretary Bill Corr, is already bringing to bear the tools and resources of both of our agencies to attack this critical problem.
As part of the HEAT initiative, we announced the expansion of our Medicare Fraud Strike Force operations from South Florida and Los Angeles to Detroit and Houston.
Today, we are here to announce that our combined efforts to shut down Medicare fraud schemes and to stop unscrupulous people from defrauding the American taxpayers have already yielded important results.
This morning, indictments charging 53 people with Medicare fraud-related crimes have been unsealed in Detroit. Agents from the FBI and the HHS Inspector General’s Office have begun arresting these defendants in Detroit, Miami, and other parts of the country. The individuals indicted today include 16 company owners and executives, as well as 4 doctors, 8 medical personnel, 6 employees and 19 patient-beneficiaries. Combined, they are accused of conspiring to submit more than $50 million in false claims to the Medicare program.
In one case it is alleged that defendants created a healthcare company, submitted paperwork to obtain required Medicare provider numbers, hired recruiters, and gave them cash to recruit patients to participate in the scheme. It is further alleged that they hired staff, such as medical billers and assistants, to give the appearance of legitimacy, and then paid the patients cash kickbacks to sign forms saying they had received treatments that in fact were medically unnecessary and, oftentimes, were never provided.
The vast majority of doctors, patients, and medical companies do the right thing and work with the Medicare program to provide access to medical services. I just want to say to those of you who work diligently and ethically to provide medical care through the Medicare program, we will work with you to root out the few who corrupt the system and taint the good reputations of health professionals everywhere.
The Medicare Fraud Strike Forces now operating in South Florida, Los Angeles, Detroit, and Houston are perfect examples of how federal, state, and local law enforcement working together can strike back against crime in our communities. These strike forces analyze Medicare data to identify hot spots of unexplained high-billing levels in concentrated areas. Teams of federal, state, and local investigators then work together to investigate fraudulent activity, and where appropriate, to bring criminal and civil cases against the most serious perpetrators. Our goal is to bring these cases as quickly and responsibly as possible once the fraud is identified to assure that viral fraud schemes do not spreadbetween regions within our country.
In fact, 10 of the defendants named in the indictments unsealed today are alleged to have brought their fraud schemes from Miami to Detroit. Strike force operations in Miami have seen instances of fraud spread quickly through communities in that area. After we arrested and charged criminals in Miami, their cohorts simply moved their schemes to Detroit. It is this very type of cross-regional spread that the expansion of Strike Force operations is designed to combat.
Now, we are aware that even with today’s charges and arrests, there are those out there continuing to defraud the Medicare program. That is why Secretary Sebelius and I are personally committed to the HEAT initiative, a multi-phase enforcement and regulatory effort to prevent, deter, and prosecute Healthcare fraud and recover taxpayer funds. As demonstrated by today’s charges and arrests, we will strike back against those whose fraudulent schemes not only undermine a program upon which 45 million aged and disabled Americans depend, but which also contribute directly to rising health care costs that all Americans must bear.
Finally, I would like to thank the agents and investigators from the FBI and HHS’s Office of the Inspector General, as well as the prosecutors from the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit, who have worked tirelessly – and are continuing to work as we speak – to bring these criminals to justice. Through their dedication and coordinated efforts, we are making our healthcare system stronger and more secure.
I would now like to turn it over to Secretary Sebelius.