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Feds charge 91 people in $430 million Medicare fraud

The medical professionals allegedly billed Medicare for unnecessary ambulance rides, medical equipment and treatment programs

Dozens of medical professionals are probably feeling a bit ill after a government investigation allegedly turned up evidence of that they had bilked Medicare out of $430 million through false billing.

Officials from the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) coordinated on the investigation, which resulted in the arrests of 91 doctors, nurses and other medical workers. Investigators say the fraud took place in seven cities, with more than one-third of the defendants coming from Miami.

Among the charges are reports that defendants billed Medicare for unnecessary ambulance rides and medical equipment. In Houston, an assistant hospital administrator reportedly paid kickbacks of cigarettes, food and coupons to patients who attended a “partial hospitalization program.” According to the government, the hospital billed Medicare for the treatment, even though some of those patients watched television and played games instead of receiving care.

“Today’s enforcement actions reveal an alarming and unacceptable trend of individuals attempting to exploit federal health care programs to steal billions in taxpayer dollars for personal gain,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement.  “Such activities not only siphon precious taxpayer resources, drive up health care costs, and jeopardize the strength of the Medicare program – they also disproportionately victimize the most vulnerable members of society, including elderly, disabled and impoverished Americans.”

In May, a similar government probe uncovered $452 million in possible Medicare fraud, resulting in the arrest of 107 suspects.

Read more at Thomson Reuters.

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Alanna Byrne

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