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Please, Sir, I Want Some More

From the Washington Post:

The Obama administration escalated its crackdown on health-care fraud Wednesday, announcing charges against 91 people in eight cities who are accused of bilking the Medicare system out of nearly $300 million and victimizing the elderly and disabled people who rely on the federal insurance program…

In Miami, 45 defendants — including a doctor and a nurse — are accused of participating in $159 million worth of schemes to submit false Medicare billings for home health care and other services. [Attorney General Eric] Holder said the victims included “some of the most vulnerable among us — including seniors suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.’’

The Attorney General may be slightly overstating the case; it doesn’t look as if the victims of the fraud were always the actual patients who may not have needed or requested the services fraudulently billed.  The real victims are the American taxpayers; Medicare is well on its way to bankrupting the United States and anybody who contributes to that process is a public enemy deserving exemplary punishment.

The Terrible Twins of the American financial crisis, Medicare and Medicaid, are full of corruption and fraud, and if the Obama administration has decided to crack down, Via Meadia wishes it every success.  But we also note that these programs are so large, so unwieldy and so awkwardly attached to the private health care system that a high degree of waste and fraud looks built in — and that well intentioned but poorly designed rules to prevent crime and control costs often gum the system up with red tape. Trying to police a health program with lawyers is not, in the long run, going to do much to cut costs.

Still, maybe some stiff sentences handed down to these (alleged) slimeballs will make the other crooks in the system trim their sails for a bit.  That would not be a bad thing.  We hope the judge decides to bring the hammer down, and that the defendants, if convicted, don’t do their time in the comfy banker prisons with the tennis courts.  This is bad stuff, and the consequences should hurt.

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  • Andrew Allison

    And it’s just going to get worse. The administration appears to believe that it can keep the Medixxx crises at bay by reducing payments to providers, thereby requiring them to pad their bills in order to receive reasonable compensation. Note that I differentiate here payment for services actually provided and outright fraud which as Prof. Mead points out should be severely punished pour encourager les autres.

  • BillH

    Don’t leave out “defensive medicine” costs brought on by predatory malpractice litigation. I suspect “defensive medicine” takes at least as big a bite out of medicare-medicaid as does fraud and waste.

  • John Burke

    Fraud is endemic to Medicaid. In 1975, NY Gov. Hugh Carey and Atty. Gen. Louis Lefkowitz named (current Brooklyn DA) Joe Hynes as a special prosecutor to investigate Medicaid fraud (initially due to a widespread scandal involving nursing homes defrauding Medicaid). That special prosecutors’ office lived on with plenty of work for 20 years and evolved into a permanent state anti-fraud unit. 48 states now have similar units.

    Yet, Medicaid fraud persists on a major scale. Going on 40 years, it should be obvious to everyone that this problem is systemic — and given that investigators cannot oossibly be catching every fraudster, it likely is far larger than most people realize.

  • Mrs. Davis

    What do we spend on DEA versus Medifraud?

  • Toni

    A truism if ever there was one: create a huge pot of government money and crooks will jump in with schemes to get some of it. Whether bilking Medicaid or siphoning cash meant for Afghan schools or stealing foreign aid to Africa, swindlers go to work.

    Don’t give this administration outsized credit for pursuing Medicaid fraud. Every administration has pursued it since Medicaid was created. Obamacrats discovered and “decided” nothing new.

    This is what so irked me about Obamacare as it was being formulated. You’re going to cut $500 bil of “waste, fraud and abuse” that hadn’t *already* been investigated and prosecuted? Okay. Find and eliminate that additional $500 billion and then we’ll talk about whether the rest of Obamacare will work.

  • Toni

    Whoops. Where I wrote Medicaid, I meant Medicare.

  • Corlyss

    Before this trend is over, doctors compelled to work for the eldercare system or forfeit their licenses to practice. If Obamacare survives the Commerce Clause scrutiny, there will be nothing to stop the government from forcing doctors to work virtually for free. Wasnt’ that one of the law’s hidden objectives? After all, health care is a human right, no?

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