Last week’s busts of 243 people suspected of collective mastodon Medicare ripoffs was good news.
The suspects pilfered $712 million of your taxpayer dollars with a cavalcade of phony claims for medical treatments and equipment such as power wheelchairs, the feds charged at a news conference in Washington.
The accused fraudsters were a disparate bunch, hailing from 17 hotspot areas beset with Medicare thievery. They were snagged by a strike force specially set up for such jobs.
The Affordable Care Act added $350 million to chase down Medicare and Medicaid thieves. The feds hired more prosecutors and expanded the strike force. Last week’s busts were just the latest high-visibility results in a long string of successes.
Yet vast amounts of Medicare-Medicaid fraud likely remain to be discovered and broken up. Arrests and convictions for eight-figure theft plots seem in endless supply. Just one suspect — Dr. Jacques Roy — allegedly tried to steal $375 million in dodgy home-healthcare claims in Texas. That case helped impel the feds to halt home-health payments in the Dallas and Houston areas for six months.
HHS says its anti-fraud investigations recovered nearly $8 for every $1 invested over the last three years. Such returns would be the envy of the for-profit sector. They also should remind us that the strike force — and Medicare-Medicaid fraud fighting in general — are high-value investments during a time of federal budget austerity.
If the national goal is more rational federal budget spending, it’s hard to imagine much better use of federal dollars. The fraud fight will be better served if the day comes when funding of strike-force efforts expands to where busts like last week’s become routine news instead of headline grabbers.