Lead DOJ Health Care Fraud Enforcer Speaks In Dallas Tomorrow
The joint announcement today (May 20, 2009) by the U.S. Departments of Justice (DOJ) and Health & Human Services (HHS) of a new interagency team to combat health care fraud highlights the increasing need for health care providers and health plans to review and tighten their practices for dealing with Medicare and other federal programs to survive scrutiny under federal health care fraud initiatives. Houston and Detroit are targeted for the attention of a new Strike Force.
Participants attending tomorrow’s Dallas Health Industry Council Southwest Healthcare Transaction Conference will get to hear the latest about these and other federal health care fraud prevention and enforcement activities from one of its key players. The Justice Department’s lead federal health care fraud prosecutor, John “Jay” S. Darden, the U.S. Department of Justice Assistant Chief for Healthcare Fraud is scheduled to provide an update on these and other federal regulatory and enforcement activities affecting health care transactions when he speaks at the Conference tomorrow afternoon at the Omni Mandalay Hotel Dallas at Las Colinas at 1:30 p.m.
Attorney General Eric Holder and Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced the creation of the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), to combat Medicare fraud and the expansion of Strike Force team operations to Detroit and Houston. Medicare Fraud Strike Forces, currently in operation in South Florida and Los Angeles, fight Medicare fraud on a targeted local level. Statements made by Secretary Sebelius and Attorney General Holder in connection with the announcement of HEAT and the Strike Force Expansion make clear that the Obama Administration views health care fraud enforcement and prevention as a key element of its efforts to control health care costs.
The HEAT team will include senior officials from DOJ and HHS who will build upon and strengthen existing programs to combat fraud while also investing new resources and technology to prevent fraud, waste and abuse before it happens. Efforts will include the expansion of joint DOJ-HHS Medicare Fraud Strike Force teams that have been successfully fighting fraud in South Florida and Los Angeles.
Established in 2007, these Strike Force teams have a proven record of success using a “data-driven” approach to identify unexplainable billing patterns and investigating these providers for possible fraudulent activity. The Medicare Fraud Strike Force team operating in South Florida has already convicted 146 defendants and secured $186 million in criminal fines and civil recoveries. After the success of operations in South Florida, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force expanded in May 2008 to phase two in Los Angeles, where 37 defendants have been charged with criminal health care fraud offenses. To date in the Los Angeles cases, more than $55 million has been ordered in restitution to the Medicare program.
In addition to health care fraud enforcement and prosecution, HHS and DOJ also view prevention as critical to reforming the system. Therefore, in addition to investigating and prosecuting fraud, the HEAT team will also focus critical resources on preventing fraud from occurring in the first place. These efforts are expected to include:
- Drawing from demonstration projects by the HHS Inspector General and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) that have focused on suppliers of durable medical equipment (DME) including increasing site visits to potential suppliers to prevent imposters from posing as legitimate DME providers.
- Increasing training for providers on Medicare compliance, offering providers the resources and the knowledge they need to help identify and prevent fraud.
- Improving data sharing between CMS and law enforcement to help identify patterns that lead to fraud.
- Strengthening program integrity activities to monitor and ensure Medicare Parts C (Medicare Advantage plans) and D (prescription drug programs) compliance and enforcement.
The Attorney General and the HHS Secretary also called on the American people to visit a new Web site http://www.hhs.gov/stopmedicarefraud or call 1-800-HHS-TIPS (1-800-447-8477) to report suspected Medicare fraud.
The HEAT Team and Strike Force activities are part of a broader emphasis in the enforcement of federal health care fraud laws. President Obama’s proposed Fiscal Year 2010 budget seeks to further increase funding for fraud prevention and enforcement by investing $311 million — a 50 percent increase from 2009 funding — to strengthen program integrity activities within the Medicare and Medicaid programs. The Obama Administration anticipates that all combined, the anti-fraud efforts in the President’s budget could save $2.7 billion over five years by improving oversight and stopping fraud in the Medicare and Medicaid programs, including the Medicare Advantage and Medicare prescription drug programs.
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