Medicare Task Force Marks Third Fraud Conviction This Year
A federal jury in Miami on Wednesday convicted a pharmacist of conspiracy to defraud Medicare, marking the third successful fraud conviction this year by the newly formed Justice Department Medicare Fraud Strike Force, the Washington Post reports.
The pharmacist had been dispensing aerosol medications and other products not needed by Medicare beneficiaries to illegally obtain payments from the federal government.
This month, HHS launched an initiative to track certain Medicare payments as they occur in an effort to intercept the flow of money to "sham businesses" before offenders can spend it, the Post reports. In addition, Medicare equipment manufacturers will be required to reapply to HHS and certify that their executives have not broken the law in their participation with Medicare.
HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said the change is one of several that could help save the program as much as $2 billion. According to the Post, investigators say that "policing" the entire Medicare system will be challenging.
Joseph Ford, associate deputy FBI director, said there are "literally millions of ways to defraud the health care system, and they devise new ones every day."
However, Assistant Attorney General Alice Fisher said, "Focusing our energy on combating the most prevalent Medicare fraud schemes will help protect patients from unnecessary medication and help protect the financial viability of the health care program" (Johnson, Washington Post, 7/19).