SENATORS TARGET MEDICARE FRAUD
Senators offer provision to double penalties to curb $60 billion problem
U.S. Senator Mel Martinez (R-FL) today urged his Senate colleagues to mount an effort to curb Medicare fraud. Martinez is seeking to change existing law to double the penalties currently allowed. Joining in this effort are Senators John Cornyn (R-TX), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Norm Coleman (R-MN), and David Vitter (R-LA).
"Medicare fraud is running rampant across Florida and across the country. We need to send a message to those bilking billions from the system that we won't stand for it and the penalties are going to be severe," Sen. Mel Martinez said. "This is only the first step; in the long-run, we need to reform the oversight system."
Originally offered as an amendment to the Indian Health Care Improvement act, Senator Martinez's effort would increase the maximum criminal sentence for Medicare fraud from five years to ten years; it would double all civil fines to $20,000 per claim; it would quadruple the criminal fine to $100,000, and it would increase the bond required to become a Durable Medical Equipment provider from $50,000 to $500,000.
"Each year, millions of dollars of taxpayer money go down the drain because of Medicare fraud and abuse. That money should instead go toward reducing costs and premiums for all Americans," Sen. John Cornyn said. "We should do everything in our power to eliminate fraud and abuse. By increasing penalties for offenders, this bill takes important steps to protect taxpayers and legitimate Medicare recipients."
"American taxpayers lose a staggering amount of money to Medicare fraud each year - as much as $70 billion annually by some estimates," said Sen. Lamar Alexander. "This bill is a great first step to prevent this kind of abuse and ensure that money being spent for Medicare actually is reaching Medicare beneficiaries. This bill also will ensure that those cheating taxpayers through Medicare fraud and abuse are appropriately punished instead of getting a slap on the wrist."
"As ranking member on the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, I have conducted a multi-year investigation into the Medicare program and uncovered over a billion dollars in waste, fraud and abuse," said Sen. Norm Coleman. "Increasing penalties for Medicare fraud is an important tool for curbing this growing problem, and I am proud to work with Senator Martinez on this important legislation to ensure the legitimacy of the Medicare program."
"Economists warn of an impending fiscal crisis that looms as a result of runaway entitlement spending," said Sen. David Vitter. "One way to help curb this excess is to cut waste and fraud in the Medicare system, and this measure takes a positive step toward that goal."
"From $5 million dollar wheelchairs to phony billing to provider kickbacks, Medicare fraud is costing all of us billions of dollars," said Martinez. "The current penalties aren't deterring people and organizations from taking advantage of the system, so until we can reform the larger oversight issue, this will give the judicial system greater discretion in helping to put offenders behind bars."
Current estimates put Medicare fraud as high as $60 billion dollars a year.