WASHINGTON — Nearly 100 people, including 14 doctors and nurses, were charged for their alleged roles in separate Medicare scams that collectively billed the taxpayer-funded program for roughly $223 million in bogus charges in a massive bust spanning eight cities, federal authorities said Tuesday.
It was the latest in a string of similar announcements by Kathleen Sebelius, Health and Human Services secretary, and Attorney General Eric Holder as federal authorities crack down on fraud that is believed to cost the program between $60 billion and $90 billion each year. Stopping Medicare’s budget from hemorrhaging that money will be key to paying for President Obama’s health care overhaul. Sebelius and Holder partnered in 2009 to increase enforcement by allocating more money and staff and creating strike forces in fraud hot spots around the country.
Miami, long known as ground zero for the complex scams, was again at the center of Tuesday’s busts, with 25 people charged in various schemes. Authorities allege five defendants in one scheme bribed Medicare patients for their ID numbers, allowing them to bill for $51 million in home health services that were never given or were not medically necessary.
Nearly 20 people, including two doctors, a physician’s assistant, and two therapists, were charged in various scams in Detroit. In one case, three posed as licensed physicians and wrote bogus prescriptions for drugs and psychotherapy services totaling $12 million, the Health and Human Services and Justice departments said in a statement.
Roughly 400 agents fanned out across the country as part of Tuesday’s arrests.