Corporate Compliance

Sebelius: New fraud prevention team will turn up heat

Compliance Monitor, May 27, 2009

On May 20, Attorney General Eric Holder and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced the government's latest tool in the fight against healthcare fraud and abuse—The Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT).

With what appears to be an intended pun, Sebelius said in an HHS press release, "Today, we are turning up the heat on perpetrators who steal from the taxpayers and threaten the future of Medicare and Medicaid."

The HEAT team will consist of senior Department of Justice and HHS employees. Their task will be to strengthen existing fraud prevention tools and investigate new ways to root out and prevent fraud, which, according to Office of Inspector General Chief Counsel Lewis Morris, accounts for about 3%—or more than $60 billion—of the government's annual healthcare investment.

The team will build on demonstration projects created by the HHS Inspector General and the CMS that focus on the vulnerable durable medical equipment (DME) industry. This includes:

  • Increasing site visits to potential suppliers to prevent imposters from posing as legitimate DME providers
  • Increasing training for providers on Medicare compliance, and offering providers the resources and the knowledge they need to help identify and prevent fraud
  • Improving data sharing between CMS and law enforcement to identify patterns that lead to fraud
  • Strengthening program integrity activities to monitor and ensure Medicare Parts C (Medicare Advantage plans) and D (prescription drug programs) compliance and enforcement

Holder and Sebelius also announced the expansion of the Medicare Fraud Strike Forces. Since their inception in 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Forces have recovered more than $240 million in fraud and abuse cases in South Florida and Los Angeles. The targets for the latest expansion are Detroit and Houston.

The creation of the HEAT team, the expansion of the Medicare Fraud Strike Forces, and the creation of a new healthcare fraud hotline (www.hhs.gov/stopmedicarefraud or 1-800-HHS-TIPS) continue President Barack Obama's push for greater healthcare fraud enforcement. Obama has made strengthening the integrity of the Medicare and Medicaid programs a priority for 2010, allotting $311 million of the $3.4 trillion budget on healthcare fraud and abuse prevention.

Most Popular