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Coronavirus stimulus money went to some health-care providers facing criminal probes: report

Coronavirus stimulus money went to some health-care providers facing criminal probes: report
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Some of the $30 billion initially offered to health-care providers in the coronavirus relief package went to facilities that are facing criminal inquiries, Reuters reported Saturday, citing several defense attorneys.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) told the outlet it dispersed funds to all medical providers who submitted billings in 2019 to Medicare unless they were excluded. Unlike the small-business loans allocated in the same relief package, some health care providers received money without applying.

Reuters said it spoke with defense lawyers and others representing over a dozen health-care providers facing either civil or criminal inquiries. Though the outlet was unable to determine exactly how much in federal funds went to facilities under criminal probes, the reporting sparked criticism among Democrats who were already unhappy with the Trump administration's handling of the stimulus fund's allocation.

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"I have an enormous amount of frustration with the way the Trump administration is distributing these dollars, and examples like these magnify the consequences of the White House's efforts to limit transparency and stonewall oversight," Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenTwo more parting shots from Trump aimed squarely at disabled workers On The Money: Push for student loan forgiveness puts Biden in tight spot | Trump is wild card as shutdown fears grow | Mnuchin asks Fed to return 5 billion in unspent COVID emergency funds Grassley, Wyden criticize Treasury guidance concerning PPP loans MORE (D-Oregon), ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, told Reuters.

A spokesman for Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiGovernors take heat for violating their own coronavirus restrictions Spending deal clears obstacle in shutdown fight Ocasio-Cortez, Cruz trade jabs over COVID-19 relief: People 'going hungry as you tweet from' vacation MORE (D-Calif.) called the revelations "alarming."

"It is alarming to see the Trump administration giving precious taxpayer dollars to unscrupulous entities while so many hospitals and health care workers on the frontlines of the battle against coronavirus are desperate for resources," Pelosi spokesman Henry Connelly told Reuters.

The Hill has reached out to HHS for comment. The department declined to respond to Reuters's questions about the payments and the criticism from lawmakers.

A spokeswoman for the HHS Office of the Inspector General said her office oversees the program but did not comment on the payments themselves.

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"While we cannot comment specifically on any work other than what has been publicly announced, I can tell you that we regularly perform reviews of the department's administration of programs, including the distribution of funding," the spokeswoman, Katherine Harris, told Reuters.

The White House announced Friday night that Trump has selected a new appointee to replace the current HHS inspector general, after the president criticized the current watchdog head over a report last month about medical shortages.

HHS noted that health-care providers who received and accepted payments as part of the stimulus package have 30 days to confirm they are treating COVID-19 patients or plan to, according to an email seen by Reuters. The department added that it "has mechanisms in place to recoup funds and address fraudulent activity."

 

The HHS inspector general's office found 747 criminal actions and 684 civil actions in the 2019 fiscal year, according to the report.