A new federal law enforcement strike force will take on Medicare fraud in New Jersey and the Philadelphia region.
The U.S. Attorney offices for the District of New Jersey and the Eastern District of Pennsylvania will lead the enforcement effort along with the FBI, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General, and Drug Enforcement Administration. The group is being called the Newark/Philadelphia Regional Medicare Fraud Strike Force.
Nationally, Medicare provides services to just under 60 million people, both over the age of 65 and disabled people of all ages. A federal estimate from 2017 puts overpayments and fraud in Medicare programs, including Medicare Advantage plans, at close to $60 billion.
“The devastation the opioid epidemic is inflicting on communities across the country and here in the Mid-Atlantic region is staggering – and health care fraud has played a role in feeding that epidemic,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney General Benczkowski. “It is estimated that each year tens of billions of dollars in American taxpayer money are lost to fraud, waste, abuse and improper payments. According to the CDC, in 2016, more than 40 percent of all U.S. opioid overdose deaths involved a prescription opioid. Our Medicare Fraud Strike Forces, which we have now expanded into Newark and Philadelphia, constitute one of our most important and effective means for containing these threats to the American people.”
“Combating the opioid epidemic and healthcare fraud abuses are major priorities of the Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania,” said William McSwain, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. “Healthcare fraud schemes are driven by greed, and all American taxpayers pay the price for criminals who prey on providers and beneficiaries alike. My Office is honored and proud to welcome the DOJ Medicare Fraud Strike Force to our District in order to attack these problems with our law enforcement partners.”
Federal agents, prosecutors, and data analysts will staff the Newark/Philadelphia Regional Medicare Fraud Strike Force.
“Fraudulent activity remains a significant threat to federal health care programs’ stability and the millions of beneficiaries who rely on such programs,” said U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General Deputy Inspector General Cantrell. “This joint initiative enables us to marshal resources with other law enforcement agencies, resulting in even more impressive investigative outcomes against health care fraud. As members of the Strike Force, OIG will continue to play a vital role in fighting health care fraud and holding criminals accountable.”
The stepped up enforcement follows similar efforts in other parts of the country.
Federal officials have been cracking down on Medicare fraud and charged 601 defendants, including 165 medical professionals, in June.