Washington, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–February 17, 2011.
Good morning – and thank you all for being here.
Today, I’m joined by several key leaders and partners in the U.S. government’s fight against health care fraud: Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, FBI Executive Assistant Director Shawn Henry, Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division Lanny Breuer, and HHS Inspector General Daniel Levinson .
We are pleased to announce the largest federal health care fraud takedown in our nation’s history. Today, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, a joint initiative between the Departments of Justice and HHS, charged 111 defendants in nine citi es – including doctors, nurses, and health care company owners and executives – for their alleged participation in Medicare fraud schemes involving more than $225 million in false billings.
We are also pleased to announce the expansion of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force – which currently operates in Baton Rogue, Brooklyn, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, and Tampa – to two additional cities: Dallas and Chicago.
Through this operation, we have identified and shut down a variety of large-scale fraud offenses. We have safeguarded precious taxpayer dollars. And we have helped to protect our nation’s most essential health care programs – Medicare and Medicaid – which provide critical assistance to the most vulnerable among us: seniors, people with disabilities, and low-income Americans.
Today’s successful takedown is the result of extraordinary collaboration. More than 700 law enforcement agents from the FBI, HHS-Office of Inspector General, multiple Medicaid Fraud Control Units, and other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies participated. And I want to recognize and thank these agents for their outstanding work.
As today’s arrests prove, the federal government is working aggressively to pursue health care criminals around the country and to bring offenders to justice. With a case against 20 alleged offenders unsealed Tuesday in the Southern District of Florida, we have charged 131 defendants – for fraud schemes involving more than $425 million in billings – in the last 2 days alone.
Put simply, our Strike Force operations reflect an unprecedented commitment to eradicating health care fraud – a commitment that inspired the creation of the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team – known as HEAT – in May of 2009. Through HEAT, we’ve ensured that the fight against health care fraud is a Cabinet-level priority. And the President’s recent budget proposal reflects this fact. We will continue efforts to strengthen our capacity to fight health care fraud, especially through the enhanced use of our joint Medicare Fraud Strike Force.
This approach is working. In just less than four years, this initiative has resulted in the indictments of nearly 1,000 defendants. By improperly billing Medicare for more than $2 billion, these criminals have siphoned desperately needed public resources. Their actions have also helped to drive up health care costs nationwide.
Although today marks a critical step forward in combating and deterring illegal activity, our work is far from over. With today’s arrests, we’re sending an important message: health care fraud is not “easy money.” It is a serious crime – and, as we’ve shown today, we will make sure it has serious consequences.
Once again, I want to thank the dedicated agents, investigators, prosecutors, law enforcement officials, and many other partners involved in today’s takedown. They are the critical to winning the fight against health care fraud – as we must, and as we will.