When it comes to health care fraud, schemes that target Medicare are among the most common and lucrative because the $400 billion federal program is a fat and easy target, says National Public Radio. The Obama administration has requested a budget increase for an effort to crack down on Medicare fraud. The effort to root out scams has proved successful in the Miami area, which leads the nation in Medicare fraud prosecutions.
In December, federal authorities broke up a $40 million scheme involving home health care services. Among those arrested was a family doctor who is charged with referring more than 1,200 Medicare recipients for home health services they didn’t need. It was big even by Miami standards. Eric Bustillo, head of the economic crimes section at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami, says last year alone, his lawyers prosecuted nearly $1 billion in fraudulent Medicare claims. Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer says antifraud strike forces have now been set up in cities around the country. “What we’re looking for are quick cases – resolve them fast – and for the sentences to be long. People who are defrauding the Medicare program and are stealing from taxpayers need to go to jail, and they need to go to jail for substantial periods of time,” Breuer says.