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Statements On Introduced Bills And Joint Resolutions

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, D.C.


By Mr. SPECTER (for himself and Mr. Graham):

S. 1843. A bill to provide increased penalties for health care fraud; to the Committee on the Judiciary.

Mr. SPECTER. Mr. President, I have sought recognition to speak about the Strengthening Enforcement for Health Care Fraud Crimes Act of 2009, which I am introducing today with Senator Graham.

At a time when Congress is poised to pass historic health care reform legislation to protect the health of Americans, it is imperative that we do all that we can to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse in America's health care systems. We must do all that we can to prevent, detect and vigorously prosecute health care fraud.

Health care fraud costs tax payers billions of dollars each year. National health care spending in the United States exceeded $2.2 trillion and represented 16 percent of the Nation's Gross Domestic Product in 2007. The National Health Care Anti-Fraud Association, NHCAA, conservatively estimates that 3 percent of all health care spending--or more than $60 billion--is lost to health care fraud perpetrated against both public and private health plans. Other estimates by government and law enforcement agencies suggest losses from fraud as high as 10 percent--or $220 billion annually.

Fraud committed against both public and private plans by health care providers, medical equipment suppliers, drug companies, and also by fraudulent plan operators and brokers, undermines public trust in our health care system.

More importantly, the costs of health care fraud are borne by all Americans. It does not matter if you have health insurance sponsored by your employer, if you purchase privately your own insurance policy, or pay taxes to fund government health care programs. Health care fraud results in reduced benefits and coverage, and higher premiums and costs. It can mean higher taxes and increased budgetary challenges.

Health care fraud often targets the most vulnerable in our society--the elderly, the poor, and the infirm. Criminals involved in health care fraud falsify patients' medical records and steal patients' personal and insurance information to submit fraudulent claims. Health care fraud subjects patients to unnecessary and dangerous medical procedures. According to the FBI:

One of the most significant trends observed in recent health care fraud cases includes the willingness of medical professionals to risk patient harm in their schemes. FBI investigations in several offices are focusing on subjects who conduct unnecessary surgeries, prescribe dangerous drugs without medical necessity, and engage in abusive or sub-standard care practices.

FBI Financial Crimes Report to the Public, Fiscal year 2007.

Criminologists have long reported that criminals look at three factors in performing their own cost benefit analysis: the risk of getting caught; the probability of being convicted; and the severity of the punishment.

The bill I am introducing today addresses the third factor--and sends the message loud and clear to those who would contemplate committing health
care fraud. If caught stealing $100,000 or more you will go to jail--no ifs, ands or buts. The bill provides a sentence of at least 6 months incarceration for committing health care fraud with losses of $100,000 or more. You may even get more jail--under the discretionary guidelines--but no one will get less than 6 months for schemes of this size.

Since the Supreme Court decided United States v. Booker in January 2005 and made the Sentencing Guidelines advisory, sentencing judges have wide discretion to impose sentences on criminal defendants unless mandatory minimum sentences are applicable. Except for aggravated identity theft crimes, defendants do not face mandatory imprisonment for white collar crimes. Given the importance and necessity to vigorously prosecute and punish serious health care fraud crimes, I urge the Senate to pass this bill. Without it, there will be no certainty of punishment nor effective deterrence for serious health care fraud crimes.


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