Today, I’m proud to be joined by several key leaders in our nation’s fight to prevent and combat health care fraud: Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, FBI Executive Assistant Director Shawn Henry, Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division Lanny Breuer, and HHS Inspector General Daniel Levinson.
We are pleased to announce the results of a nationwide takedown, by Medicare Fraud Strike Force operations in eight cities, that has resulted in charges against 91 defendants for their alleged participation in Medicare fraud schemes involving nearly $300 million in false billings.
This is the highest amount of false billings targeted in a single takedown since the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services came together to launch the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team – known as HEAT – in 2009.
In indictments unsealed yesterday and today, 70 individuals – including doctors, nurses, and health care company owners and executives in six different cities – were charged with a variety of Medicare fraud schemes. This was coordinated with takedown operations last week, when 18 others in Detroit, and one defendant in Miami, were charged for their alleged roles in Medicare fraud schemes – and two weeks ago in Dallas, where two individuals were charged for their alleged roles in another scheme.
It’s important to understand the types of activities we’ve identified – and shut down. The defendants charged in these takedown operations are accused of various health care fraud-related crimes, including conspiracy to defraud the Medicare program, violations of anti-kickback statutes, and money laundering. The charges are based on a variety of alleged fraud schemes involving various treatments and services that were not medically necessary – and, oftentimes, were never even provided.
We allege that, in many of these cases, the personal information of patients – and unwitting Medicare beneficiaries – was put at risk; that patient recruiters, Medicare beneficiaries, and other co-conspirators were paid cash kickbacks in return for supplying beneficiary information to providers to facilitate fraudulent Medicare claims; that numerous physicians, nurses, and therapists violated their professional responsibilities, as well as the public trust; and that some of the most vulnerable among us – including seniors suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease – were exploited by those willing to steal precious taxpayer resources – and to jeopardize the integrity of our health care system, and our nation’s most critical health care program – for personal gain.
Fortunately, through our highly coordinated, nationwide Strike Force operations, we are fighting back. And our anti-health care fraud efforts have never been more innovative, collaborative, aggressive – or effective.
In fact, as of today, Strike Force operations in nine districts have charged more than 1,140 defendants who – collectively – have allegedly billed Medicare more than $2.9 billion in false claims. That’s right, $2.9 billion. To combat a problem of this scope, we now have teams on the ground in Baton Rouge, Brooklyn, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, and Tampa – and we’ve opened new channels of communication between federal agencies, our law enforcement partners, and the general public.
Since Secretary Sebelius and I launched the HEAT initiative two years ago, we have made certain that the fight against health care fraud is a Cabinet-level priority. And President Obama has assured us that it will continue to be a major area of focus for this Administration.
Although we can – and should – be encouraged by this fact; by today’s announcement; and by the progress that’s been achieved in recent years to identify, deter, and combat health care fraud – we have more to do. And our work to contain and overcome the problem of health care fraud is far from over.
We will continue to rely on the dedicated agents, investigators, prosecutors, and law enforcement officials involved in today’s takedown; on our partners across government; and on the American people. By working together, we can – and we will – win the fight against health care fraud.
And now, I’d like to turn things over to one of the most essential partners in this fight – my good friend, Secretary Sebelius.