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Medicare scam hits $26 million

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In another recent Medicare scam, 20 people in California have been charged for fraudulently billing Medicare nearly $26 million, according to a Seattle Times article.

According Lanny Breuer, head of the Justice Department’s criminal division in Washington, the arrests were more evidence of the increased pursuit of Medicare fraud – a problem which costs the U.S. almost $60 billion annually.

In the California, some of the allegations included fraudulent billing for unneeded wheelchairs and hospital beds. Other schemes involved orders for “wheelchairs that went to people that never needed them, wheelchairs that went to people that never received them, and wheelchairs that were purchased by people who were already deceased,” Breuer said.

In what was once considered a mostly white-collar crime, authorities are now noticing an increased amount of violence being used to settle disputes, said Sergeant Stephen Opferman of Los Angeles County sheriff’s department. As with the latest case in California, gang involvement was alleged with some of the charges.

According to the Seattle Times article, “It [the bust in California] was the fourth major sweep since U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced in May they were adding millions of dollars and dozens of agents to combat” Medicare fraud.

The centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have recently come under scrutiny as failing to protect the nation’s seniors. However, the “fight against fraud” has also drummed up considerable support for the system as it has come under the microscope in the quest for national healthcare reform.