In the seventh “takedown” since the government formed a Medicare Fraud Strike Force in 2007, federal agents arrested 90 people on May 13th, including 50 in Miami, on charges they schemed to falsely bill taxpayers $260 million.
In what is becoming an annual affair, the latest figures offer a staggering picture of the extent to which fraudsters are preying on the huge health care program for the nation’s elderly.
Since their inception, Strike Force operations have prosecuted 1,900 people in nine locations on charges that they bilked the government for almost $6 billion. The Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has removed over 17,000 providers from the Medicare program in the last three years alone.
Why is the Medicare program so vulnerable to fraud? Are there ways to prevent doctors, nurses and others in the health field from scamming taxpayers? Or is the program based so much on an honor system that it’s ripe for the plucking?
These are questions increasingly dogging the program as headlines about new health care fraud arrests and prosecutions seem to stream out of the Justice Department every week.