Dead doctors still making millions from Medicare billings

Monday, May 10, 2010 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: Medicare, doctors, health news

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(NaturalNews) Medicare issued as much as $92 million in payments between 2000 and 2007 for medical procedures or devices ordered under the names of doctors who had already died, according to a 2008 Senate committee report.

Prescriptions written in the names of deceased doctors are only one of the fraudulent techniques that plague the U.S. health care system, which has become a favorite target for organized crime.

"There are so many schemes involved," said John Gillies, a special agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). "Take any aspect of the healthcare industry and there's a fraud going on in there right now."

Medicare and other healthcare fraud have been targeted as major areas for reform by politicians seeking to reduce the country's medical spending. According to the FBI, between 3 and 10 percent of the country's yearly healthcare spending goes to fraud, or $200 billion. This is consistent with an October 2009 Thompson Reuters report, which estimated that fraud cost the U.S. healthcare system more than $220 billion in 2007, or 10 percent of its total spending.

According to Gillies, years of government inattention have allowed healthcare fraud to become one of the easiest and best-paying crimes in the United States. Since penalties for those caught are also relatively low, organized crime has been increasingly drawn to Medicare fraud, in many cases adopting it in favor of the more dangerous illegal drug trade.

In addition to using names of dead doctors, Medicare scammers may also set up fake medical device supply companies for reimbursement, or fake treatments for HIV and AIDS. As Florida prosecutors attempt to grapple with the problem -- announcing a new arrest, indictment or conviction nearly every week -- the crimes have become more complex, incorporating elements such as stolen identities, kickback payments and manipulative billing.

"When we shut down one scheme they just move onto the next scheme," Gillies said. "I do not see it slowing down any time soon."

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