Mr. WHITEHOUSE. Mr. President, I rise today to talk about an issue that is extremely important to people in Rhode Island and across the United States: protecting consumers and securing the integrity of Medicare by preventing waste and fraud. Individuals who commit Medicare fraud are not simply stealing from the government, they are stealing from the men and women who have paid into the system their whole lives, they are stealing from our Nation's seniors, and they are stealing from the taxpayers. We have an obligation to ensure that Medicare dollars are spent keeping seniors healthy, and not lining the pockets of predatory opportunists.
In March, I held a hearing in Rhode Island on efforts at the Federal, State, and local levels to identify and reduce fraud in Medicare and Medicaid. I heard testimony from a representative of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, as well as State and Federal law enforcement officials, including Rhode Island's Attorney General, Peter Kilmartin; and the U.S. Attorney for Rhode Island, Peter Neronha. They discussed a number of the efforts underway to identify potentially fraudulent claims, recover improper payments, and use state-of-the-art analytic software to identify and prevent improper payments.
I was pleased to hear about the steps being taken to modernize Medicare's anti-fraud efforts, but there is still much that can be done. In particular, I believe we must crack down on deceptive and fraudulent telemarketing and email schemes that force unwanted and unnecessary medical equipment onto unsuspecting seniors. I have heard from Rhode Islanders concerned about these ``too-good-to-be-true'' offers. During my March hearing, I heard testimony about Medicare beneficiaries receiving unsolicited phone calls from a company called Planned Eldercare, which promised to provide them with free medical products. If a senior agreed to the offer, Planned Eldercare would submit as many claims as it could to Medicare on that beneficiary's behalf, even if the products for which they were submitting claims were not medically necessary or even requested by the senior. This scheme defrauded Medicare out of more than $2.2 million.
These schemes prey on older Americans and rob Medicare of millions of dollars that would otherwise be used to improve the health and well-being of seniors. We must do more to prevent fraud of this kind, which is why I am joining with my colleague, Senator Blumenthal, in introducing the Telemarketing Fraud Modernization Act. This bill would close loopholes in the existing telemarketing fraud statute and update the law to include Medicare, Medicaid, and health care fraud, as well as schemes to fraudulently induce investments--like Ponzi schemes. It would also expand existing law to apply to schemes perpetrated via email, instant messages, and other forms of electronic communication. Updating the telemarketing fraud statute will give law enforcement agencies the tools they need to rein in scam artists, protect our Nation's seniors, and strengthen the integrity of the Medicare program.
I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle on this important issue.
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