Obama Administration recovers over $27.8 billion in health care fraud

Obama's government health care fraud prevention and enforcement efforts are working.

Administration recovers $7.70 for every dollar spent to fight health care-related fraud and abuse; third-highest on record.

More than $27.8 billion has been returned to the Medicare Trust Fund over the life of the Health Care Fraud and Abuse Control (HCFAC) Program, Attorney General Eric Holder and HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell announced today.  The government’s health care fraud prevention and enforcement efforts recovered $3.3 billion in taxpayer dollars in Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 from individuals and companies that attempted to defraud federal health programs, including programs serving seniors, persons with disabilities or those with low incomes. For every dollar spent on health care-related fraud and abuse investigations in the last three years, the administration recovered $7.70. This is about $2 higher than the average return on investment in the HCFAC program since it was created in 1997.  It is also the third-highest return on investment in the life of the program.

“Eliminating fraud, waste and abuse is a top priority for the Department of Health and Human Services,” Secretary Burwell said. “These impressive recoveries for the American taxpayer demonstrate our continued commitment to this goal and highlight our efforts to prosecute the most egregious instances of health care fraud and prevent future fraud and abuse. New enrollment screening techniques and computer analytics are preventing fraud before money ever goes out the door. And together with the continued support of Congress and our partners at the Department of Justice, we’ve cracked down on tens of thousands of health care providers suspected of Medicare fraud – all of which are helping to extend the life of the Medicare Trust Fund.”

“As the innovative and collaborative work of the Health Care Fraud and Abuse Control Program proceeds, more taxpayer money is being recovered, more criminals are facing justice, and more fraud is being punished, prevented, and deterred,” said Attorney General Holder. “The extraordinary return on investment we've obtained speaks to the skill, the tenacity, and the inspiring success of the hardworking men and women fighting on behalf of the American people. And with these outstanding results, we are sending the unmistakable message that we will not waver in our mission to pursue fraud, to protect vulnerable communities, and to preserve the public trust.”

The recoveries announced today reflect a two-pronged strategy to combat fraud and abuse. Under new authorities granted by the Affordable Care Act, the administration continues to implement programs that move away from “pay and chase” efforts targeting fraudsters to preventing health care fraud and abuse in the first place. In addition, the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), run jointly by the HHS Office of the Inspector General and DOJ, is changing how the federal government fights certain types of health care fraud. These cases are being investigated through real-time data analysis in lieu of a prolonged subpoena and account analyses, resulting in significantly shorter periods of time between fraud identification, arrest, and prosecution.

Increased funding from the administration and Congress has allowed HHS and DOJ to build on early successes of the Medicare Strike Force by expanding into nine geographic territories – Miami; Los Angeles; Detroit; Houston; Brooklyn, New York; Southern Louisiana; Tampa, Florida; Chicago; and Dallas. Since its inception, Strike Force prosecutors have filed more than 963 cases, charging more than 2,097 defendants who collectively billed the Medicare program more than $6.5 billion; 1,443 defendants pleaded guilty and 191 others were convicted in jury trials; and 1,197 defendants were sentenced to imprisonment for an average term of approximately 47 months. Through the Strike Force and other efforts, in FY 2014 alone, DOJ opened 924 new criminal health care fraud investigations. Federal prosecutors filed criminal charges in 496 cases involving 805 defendants.  A total of 734 defendants were convicted of health care fraud‑related crimes during the year.

Another powerful tool in the effort to combat health care fraud is the federal False Claims Act.  In 2014, the Civil Division of the Justice Department and the United States Attorneys’ Offices obtained $2.3 billion in settlements and judgments from civil cases involving fraud and false claims against federal health care programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.  Since January 2009, the Justice Department has recovered more than $15.2 billion in cases involving health care fraud.  These amounts reflect federal losses only. In many of these cases, the department was instrumental in recovering additional billions of dollars for state health care programs. In FY 2014, DOJ continued its enforcement of the civil False Claims Act and the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, and opened 782 new civil health care fraud investigations.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is also adopting a number of preventive measures to combat fraud and abuse. Provider enrollment is the gateway to billing the Medicare program, and CMS has put critical safeguards in place to make sure that only legitimate providers are enrolling in the program. The Affordable Care Act required a CMS revalidation of all existing 1.5 million Medicare suppliers and providers under new screening requirements. CMS will have requested all revalidations by March 2015. As a result of this and other proactive initiatives, CMS has deactivated 470,000 enrollments and revoked nearly 28,000 enrollments to prevent certain providers from re-enrolling and billing the Medicare program. Both of these actions immediately stop billing. A provider with deactivated billing privileges can reactivate at any time, and a revoked provider is barred from re-entry into Medicare for a period ranging from 1 to 3 years. CMS has also issued a regulation requiring prescribers of Part D drugs to enroll in Medicare and undergo screening.

CMS also continued the fiscal 2014 temporary moratoria on the enrollment of new home health or ambulance service providers in six fraud hot spots: Miami, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Detroit and Philadelphia (which includes some counties in New Jersey). This extension will allow CMS to continue its actions to suspend payments or remove providers from the program before allowing new providers into potentially over-supplied markets.

Similar to the technology used by credit card companies, CMS is using its Fraud Prevention System to apply advanced analytics to all Medicare fee-for-service claims on a streaming, national basis. The Fraud Prevention System identifies aberrant and suspicious billing patterns which in turn trigger actions that can be implemented swiftly to prevent payment of fraudulent claims. In the second year, the system saved $210.7 million, almost double the amount identified during the first year of the program.

The HCFAC annual report is available at www.oig.hhs.gov/publications/hcfac.asp.

For more information on the fraud prevention accomplishments under the Affordable Care Act visit: http://www.cms.gov/Newsroom/MediaReleaseDatabase/Fact-sheets/2015-Fact-s...