Fines, jail time would double under Medicare fraud bill

Tougher criminal and financial penalties and an increased focus on prevention are staples of a new Medicare fraud bill co-sponsored by Florida Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R) and Ron Klein (D). 

The Medicare Fraud Enforcement and Prevention Act would double the amount of jail time served by those convicted of false claims and anti-kickback violations from five to 10 years, and would increase fines to $50,000 from $25,000. The bill's ultimate goal is to stop crime before it starts through more intense background checks on business owners who would want to bill Medicare, as well through an increase in surprise law enforcement inspections. 

"The government cannot incarcerate its way out of Medicare fraud," Kirk Ogrosky, former head of the Department of Justice's criminal healthcare practice, said according to BusinessWeek. "Prevention is the answer." 

The bill also would create a new offense for "illegally distributing a Medicare or Medicaid beneficiary ID or billing privileges," for which the maximum punishment would be a three-year jail term and a fine. 

In announcing the bill at a senior community center in Miami, Ros-Lehtinen specifically made mention of the recent case where six Miami residents were charged with helping to scheme Medicare out of $13 million in fraudulent claims for HIV infusion therapies. 

"We are going to put the rip-off artists in jail," she said, according to the South Florida Business Journal. "This stops now." 

To learn more:
- read this BusinessWeek article
- read this South Florida Business Journal piece
- here's a press release from Klein's office
- here's the proposed bill