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Attorney General Eric Holder Speaks at the Regional HEAT Summit


Boston, MA
United States

Good morning. It’s a pleasure to join with Secretary Sebelius – and with U.S. Attorney [ Carmen] Ortiz, Deputy Administrator [Peter] Budetti, Inspector General [Dan] Levinson, and Assistant Attorney General [Tony] West – in welcoming you all here. I want to thank Chancellor [J. Keith] Motley and the University of Massachusetts Boston for hosting us. And I want to thank each of you for your participation in today’s discussion – and for your partnership in our national fight against health-care fraud.

We can all be encouraged by the number of people, and the diversity of perspectives, represented here. I am glad to see that top federal and state officials; administration leaders; federal, state, and local law enforcement officers; health-care providers; as well as leading physicians, business executives, caregivers, investigators, and prosecutors have come together for this critical summit.

We share the same goals of protecting potential victims, safeguarding precious taxpayer dollars, and ensuring the strength of our health-care system. Here in Boston – a city known for its world-class medical and nursing schools, its health research institutions, its 14 teaching hospitals, and its historic leadership in expanding access to healthcare – I know that many of you have concerns about the devastating effects of health-care fraud. Despite the commitment you represent and the great work being done across Massachusetts and beyond – we can all agree that it’s time to take our nationwide fight against health-care fraud to the next level.

That’s what today is all about. This summit is an important step forward – an opportunity to build on what has been discussed, and achieved, since January – when Secretary Sebelius and I convened the first “National Summit on Health Care Fraud” in Washington. This past summer, we kicked off a series of regionally-focused conversations so that we could better understand, and more effectively address, the unique challenges being faced in different areas of the country. So far, Secretary Sebelius and I have been to Miami, Los Angeles, and New York. In the coming months, we plan to hold additional summits in Detroit, Philadelphia and Las Vegas. Like Boston, many of these cities have become “hot spots” for health-care fraud schemes. Here, and across New England, these crimes have reached crisis proportions, driving up health-care costs for everyone – and also hurting the long-term solvency of our essential Medicare and Medicaid programs.

But we are fighting back – in bold, innovative, and coordinated ways.

Last year brought an historic step forward in this fight – when the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services launched the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team, known as “HEAT.” Through HEAT, we’ve fostered unprecedented collaboration among our agencies and our law enforcement partners. We’ve ensured that the fight against criminal and civil health-care fraud is a Cabinet-level priority. And we’ve strengthened the work – and the record of success – of our Medicare Strike Forces.

This approach is working.

In fact, HEAT’s impact has been recognized by President Obama, whose FY-2011 budget request includes an additional $60 million to expand our network of Strike Forces to additional cities and to increase our civil False Claims Act enforcement.

With these new resources, and our continued commitment to collaboration, I have no doubt we’ll be able to extend HEAT’s record of achievement. And this record – quite simply – is extraordinary.

In just the last fiscal year, we obtained settlements and judgments amounting to more than $2.5 billion in False Claims Act matters alleging health care fraud – the largest annual figure in history and an increase of more than 60% from fiscal year 2009. We also opened more than 2,000 new criminal and civil health-care fraud investigations, reached an all-time high in the number of health-care fraud defendants charged, stopped numerous large-scale fraud schemes in their tracks, and returned more than $2.5 billion to the Medicare Trust Fund and more than $800 million to cash-strapped state Medicaid programs.

This work continues to grow. Just yesterday, the Department announced settlements of more than $200 million with two pharmaceutical companies – Elan Corporation PLC, and its U.S. subsidiary Elan Pharmaceuticals Inc. – to resolve allegations of illegal and off-label marketing of an anti-seizure medication. And we can all be encouraged, in particular, by what’s been accomplished in Massachusetts.

As Assistant Attorney General West highlighted earlier today, the U.S. Attorneys’ Office in this district played a leading role in reaching historic settlements – including the largest health-care fraud settlement in history. Just last week, this district helped reach a settlement of more than $420 million with several pharmaceutical companies to resolve allegations of a scheme to report false and inflated prices – prices that federal healthcare programs rely on to set payment rates – for numerous pharmaceutical products.

In all, the District of Massachusetts has recovered, as [U.S. Attorney] Carmen [Ortiz] noted this morning, more than $4 billion in civil and criminal health-care fraud settlements over the past two years. That’s right – $4 billion. You should all be proud of these health-care-fraud enforcement efforts. I certainly am.

As figures like these demonstrate, health-care fraud schemes across this region are being aggressively and permanently shut down. This is the result of the hard work of many of the attorneys and investigators in this room. And, in particular, I want to note the great work being done by Boston’s “Special Focus Team,” which attacks large-scale, corporate health-care fraud – from pharmaceutical fraud to medical-device company fraud – head on. These efforts are providing proof that we can make measurable, meaningful progress in the fight against health-care fraud.

But we cannot do it alone.

We need your help. We need your insights. And we will rely on your recommendations to help guide and enhance HEAT’s critical work.

Despite all that’s been accomplished since HEAT was launched, health-care fraud remains a significant problem. At this very moment, for example, we know that an alarming number of scam artists and criminals are attempting to profit from misinformation about the Affordable Care Act, which Congress passed – and President Obama signed into law – earlier this year.

Fortunately, this landmark legislation provides new resources and includes tough new rules and penalties to help stop and prevent health-care fraud. And the Justice Department will continue to work vigorously with our law enforcement and private sector partners to ensure that those who engage in fraud cannot use this new law to steal from taxpayers, patients, seniors, and other vulnerable Americans. We will keep industry leaders informed about emerging fraud schemes and help institute effective compliance and anti-fraud programs. And we will punish offenders to the fullest extent of the law. That’s a promise.

As Secretary Sebelius and I do our part in Washington to build on the progress that’s been made in combating health-care fraud, we want to work closely with you – and with state and local officials, officers, leaders, and advocates across the country.  Our continued success depends on the commitment we make, the priorities we establish, and the partnerships we forge now. And your presence here today gives me great hope about what we can accomplish together going forward.

Thank you all, once again, for joining us and for your ongoing commitment to protecting the American people and ensuring the strength and integrity of our health-care system. I look forward to working with you all.

Thank you.

Updated August 19, 2015