At a Chicago summit highlighting a new high-tech war against health care fraud, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Attorney General Eric Holder today discussed how the Affordable Care Act and the Obama administration's Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) are helping fight Medicare fraud. The Chicago summit is the seventh regional health care fraud prevention summit hosted by the Department of Justice and HHS.
The regional summits bring together a wide array of public and private partners, and are part of the HEAT partnership between HHS and the Department of Justice to prevent and combat health care fraud. The Obama administration's HEAT efforts have resulted in record-breaking health care fraud recoveries. In fiscal year 2011, for the second year in a row, the departments' anti-fraud activities resulted in more than $4 billion in recoveries, an all-time high.
"We have a simple message to criminals thinking about committing Medicare fraud: don't even try," said Secretary Sebelius. "Thanks to health reform and our administration's work, we have new tools and resources to catch criminals and stop Medicare fraud before it happens."
"This Administration continues to move aggressively in protecting patients and consumers and bringing health care fraud criminals to justice," said Attorney General Holder. "Through HEAT, we have achieved unprecedented, record-breaking successes in combating health care fraud and as a result of the Affordable Care Act, we have additional critical resources, tools and authorities to continue this great success."
New tools provided by the Affordable Care Act are strengthening the Obama administration's efforts to fight health care fraud. As a result of Affordable Care Act provisions:
Criminals face tougher sentences for health care fraud, 20-50 percent longer for crimes that involve more than $1 million in losses;
Contractors that police Medicare for waste, fraud, and abuse will expand their work to Medicaid, Medicare Advantage, and Medicare Part D programs;
Government entities, including states, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), and law enforcement partners at the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and DOJ, have greater abilities to work together and share information so that CMS can prevent money from going to bad actors by using its authority to suspend payments to providers and suppliers engaged in suspected fraudulent activity.
Increased collaboration has yielded significant results through the HEAT partnership. Since the creation of HEAT in 2009, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force operations have expanded from two to nine locations throughout the United States, including Chicago. Strike Force operations expanded to Chicago in February 2011 and since that time, charges have been filed against more than 35 defendants in the Northern District of Illinois for offenses related to health care fraud. Overall, in fiscal year 2011, strike force operations in nine locations charged a total of more than 320 defendants for allegedly billing more than $1 billion in false claims.
In February, as a result of HEAT and strike force actions, a Dallas-area physician and the office manager of his medical practice, along with five owners of home health agencies, were arrested on charges related to their alleged participation in a nearly $375 million health care scheme involving fraudulent claims for home health services. In conjunction with this action, CMS imposed payment suspensions against 78 home health agencies in the Dallas area.
Today, the Obama administration also announced more progress from its anti-fraud efforts, beyond the nearly $4.1 billion recovered last year:
In the early phase of revalidating the enrollment of providers in Medicare, 234 providers were removed from the program because they were deceased, debarred or excluded by other federal agencies, or were found to be in false storefronts or otherwise invalid business locations;
In 2011, HHS revoked 4,850 Medicaid providers and suppliers and deactivated 56,733 Medicare providers and suppliers as it took steps to close vulnerabilities in Medicare;
In 2011, HHS saved $208 million through pre-payment edits that stop implausible claims before they are paid;
Prosecutions are up: the number of individuals charged with fraud increased from 797 in fiscal year 2008 to 1,430 in fiscal 2011 -- nearly a 75 percent increase;
In the first few weeks of enhanced site visits required under the ACA screening requirements, HHS found 15 providers and suppliers whose business locations were non-operational and terminated their billing privileges;
Through outreach and engagement efforts more than 49,000 complaints of fraud from seniors and people with disabilities reported to 1-800-MEDICARE were referred for further evaluation;
A recent re-design of the quarterly Medicare Summary Notices received by Medicare beneficiaries makes it easier to spot and report fraud.