OIG finds $1.51B in savings from fraud, details efforts to combat COVID-19 scammers

The Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS') watchdog is expected to recover $1.51 billion in taxpayer funding from Oct. 1, 2019, to March 31, 2020, a new report finds.

But that was down severely from the prior six-month period where the watchdog collected $5.04 billion from April to September 2019.

The agency’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) released its semiannual report to Congress (PDF) Monday. The watchdog detailed its efforts to tackle fraud and how it is handling fraud related to COVID-19.

Overall, OIG’s investigative work led to $1.51 billion in expected investigative recoveries alongside 443 criminal actions during the six-month period.

“OIG also took civil actions, such as assessing monetary penalties, against 370 individuals and entities, and excluded 903 individuals and entities from Federal health care programs,” the report said.

RELATED: OIG expects to recover $5.9B in fraud investigations, doubling last year's haul

The watchdog also issued 81 audit reports alongside 14 evaluations.

“Our audit work identified $605.2 million in expected recoveries, as well as $288.4 million in questioned costs (costs questioned by OIG because of an alleged violation, costs not supported by adequate documentation, or the expenditure of funds where the intended purpose is unnecessary or unreasonable),” the report said.

HHS could also see $911.3 million in potential savings if the agency adopts all of OIG’s audit recommendations.

RELATED: OIG fraud recoveries dropped $1.2B this year. That might not be a bad thing

The watchdog has made 273 new audit and evaluation recommendations between October and March.

OIG also launched a series of enforcement actions to crack down on scammers at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“By mid-March, OIG had developed a dedicated system to report fraud schemes for COVID-19, issued a special fraud alert on COVID-19 to protect Medicare beneficiaries from identity theft, issued a policy statement to waive cost-sharing requirements for telehealth services, and initiated an assessment of CDC’s provision of COVID-19 test kits and its oversight of laboratory testing,” the report found.