Federal officials have charged 107 suspects with submitting $452 million in false bills to Medicare in seven U.S. cities, says the Miami Herald. In the Miami area, 59 of those defendants were accused of trying to steal $137 million from the taxpayer-funded healthcare program. The takedown — one for the record books since the Justice Department began targeting Medicare corruption as a national crisis in 2007 — was both a surgical and symbolic strike against the still-viral crime.
Not surprisingly, “South Florida has the lion's share of the cases,” U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer told reporters after 22 indictments were unsealed in Miami federal court. Ferrer said Medicare fraud scammers have evolved from old-fashioned medical equipment suppliers to mental health, physical therapy, home care and HIV service providers. “They all share one thing — greed,” Ferrer said, treating Medicare like an “ATM machine.” Although Medicare has devoted hundreds of millions of dollars to fight fraud with upgraded computer software, the federal program for seniors and the disabled still pays most claims within 30 days. As a result, Medicare's contractors pay out billions of dollars yearly on fraudulent bills because they fail to detect anything suspicious. Miami, long-recognized as the nation's capital for Medicare fraud, runs no risk of losing that dubious distinction.