With the current debate taking place in Congress over healthcare reform legislation, the topic of Medicare fraud has once again come to the forefront. As part of the new legislation, efforts to eradicate the growing problem of fraud is being discussed among politicians. Congress is aware that Miami is leading city when it comes to Medicare fraud. According to reports, large Medicare fraud cases are also increasing in Palm Beach and Broward Counties as well. The vast number of Miami Medicare fraud cases have led the federal authorities to target the South Florida area. In 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force was created to combat the fraud. It has become a model for other areas of the county dealing with the same issue. Other crime stopping measures are also being discussed. It is apparent that the federal government is stepping up their efforts and that they are after anyone involved in Medicare fraud.
Miami criminal lawyers experienced in defending Medicare fraud cases are finding themselves traveling to other counties to defend their clients. Justice Department officials claim that individuals involved in Medicare fraud are moving north in an effort to find fertile ground and avoid the area under the scrutiny of law enforcement. According to reports, one-third of all Medicare fraud cases in the United States stem from Miami and South Florida area. Anyone being investigated for being involved in a Miami Medicare fraud case must seek the assistance of an attorney experienced in handling these matters priors to speaking to law enforcement authorities. Speaking to law enforcement without representation may prevent an individual from availing himself or herself to the many defenses that exit.
The argument over Medicare fraud has caused a rift in Congress. Those opposed to healthcare reform claim that the government is incapable of running a federal healthcare system because it cannot even stamp out Medicare fraud in South Florida. President Obama and democrats want to throw more money and manpower into anti-fraud enforcement. At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, a member of the Department of Justice testified that 3% to 10% of the $800 billion dollars spent on Medicare was lost to waste, fraud and abuse.
The crackdown on Miami Medicare fraud has resulted in more than 300 indictments, 150 guilty pleas, 20 individuals found guilty after jury trial and the collection in over $275 million in restitution. The majority of Miami Medicare fraud cases involve criminal enterprises taking advantage of senior citizens. Many of the fraudulent networks pay kickbacks to the elderly to get them to attend their clinics. They use their social security numbers and patient identification numbers to bill for treatments the patients never receive. Obama has requested $311 million dollars to beef up fraud enforcement. The money is expected to go in part to a new website to investigate fraudulent payments and new computer systems for identifying fraud.
Florida's Model for Medicare Fraud and the Fight to Stop It, Sun Sentinal.com, November 29, 2009.