The Justice Department announced charges against 24 people across the U.S., including doctors accused of writing bogus prescriptions for unneeded back, shoulder, wrist and knee braces.
Others charged included owners of call centers, telemedicine firms and medical equipment companies.
The Health and Human Services inspector general’s office said the alleged scam morphed into multiple related schemes, fueled by kickbacks among the parties involved. The FBI, the IRS, and 17 U.S. attorney’s offices took part in the crackdown. Arrests were made Tuesday morning.
Medicare’s anti-fraud unit said it’s taking action against 130 medical equipment companies implicated. They allegedly billed the program a total of $1.7 billion, of which more than $900 million was paid out.
Telemarketers would apparently reach out to seniors offering “free” orthopedic braces, also advertised through television and radio ads. Beneficiaries who expressed interest would be patched through to call centers involved in the alleged scheme. Officials described an “international telemarketing network” with call centers in the Philippines and throughout Latin America.
The call centers would verify seniors’ Medicare coverage and transfer them to telemedicine companies for consultations with doctors.
The doctors would allegedly write prescriptions for orthopedic braces, regardless of whether the patients needed them or not. In some cases several braces were prescribed for the same patient.
The call centers would collect prescriptions and sell them to medical equipment companies, which would ship the braces to beneficiaries and bill Medicare. Medical equipment companies would get $500 to $900 per brace from Medicare and would pay kickbacks of nearly $300 per brace.
The alleged scam was detected last summer, officials said. Complaints from beneficiaries were pouring in to the Medicare fraud hotline, and some consumer news organizations warned seniors.
Officials said it’s one of the biggest frauds the inspector general’s office has seen. Charges were being brought against defendants in California, Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Texas.
Medicare is a federal health care program that provides insurance benefits to seniors. Nationally, over 50 million people receive Medicare benefits. Due to Medicare fraud increasing in recent years, federal investigators and prosecutors have been on the hunt for anyone suspected of Medicare fraud. Whether it was the result of an intentional plan, an oversight, or the actions of your staff and/or employee, being charged with Medicare fraud can wreak havoc on your life. Medicare fraud is a serious crime that may result in several years in federal prison, along with significant fines and a permanent criminal record.
Being charged with Medicare fraud can be frightening and overwhelming. Federal charges must be handled by a lawyer who has experience in this specific field. Our Florida Medicare Fraud Attorneys at Whittel & Melton have the knowledge and skill you need to bring a powerful defense against the health care fraud charges you face.