Feds nab 90 suspects in $260 million Medicare fraud sting

Federal officials announced Tuesday that a nationwide sting resulted in charges against 90 defendants accused of costing taxpayers $260 million in fraudulent Medicare charges.

Attorney General Eric Holder and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced the operation conducted by their departments along with state and local law enforcement agencies.

The defendants, who include 27 doctors and nurses, face a number of Medicare fraud charges, with officials saying they participated in schemes to bill the government medical treatments that were unnecessary or never provided.

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“The crimes charged represent the face of health care fraud today – doctors billing for services that were never rendered, supply companies providing motorized wheelchairs that were never needed, recruiters paying kickbacks to get Medicare billing numbers of patients,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General David O’Neil. 

“The fraud was rampant, it was brazen, and it permeated every part of the Medicare system,” he added.

In Miami alone, 50 defendants were charged Monday and Tuesday for falsely billing for home health care and mental health services, and pharmacy fraud to the tune of $65.5 million. The operation also netted suspected Medicare defrauders in other major cities including Tampa, Houston, Los Angeles and Detroit.

The nationwide operations conducted over the past few days were carried out by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force.

Since the strike force came into effect in March 2007, the DOJ says it has charged almost 1,900 defendants for falsely billing Medicare $6 billion.

Sebelius said that Obamacare had also given authorities more leeway to go after suspected fraud to save taxpayers money.

“The Affordable Care Act has given us additional tools to preserve Medicare and protect the tens of millions of Americans who rely on it each day,” said Sebelius in a joint statement Tuesday, touting the sting.

“By expanding our authority to suspend Medicare payments and reimbursements when fraud is suspected, the law allows us to better preserve the system and save taxpayer dollars,” she added.