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HIV Meds Scams Part Of Massive Medicare-Bilking Schemes

Posted by pozlife on May 10, 2007

by The Associated Press

Posted: May 10, 2007 – 9:00 am ET

(Washington) After documenting more than $140 million in Medicare fraud in south Florida, federal officials say they will take a more thorough look at other providers of medical equipment.

An investigation in the Miami area has led to 38 arrests, including 20 on Tuesday.

Many defendants set up sham medical equipment dealerships. The defendants are accused of stealing the Medicare numbers of beneficiaries or buying their numbers, and then billing the government for power wheelchairs, walkers, or kits for testing blood sugar levels, said Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt.

“Unfortunately, that’s exactly what’s been happening in several areas around our country,” Leavitt said.

Leavitt said increased enforcement efforts will cost about $20 million annually, but could save taxpayers and beneficiaries about $2.5 billion annually. Home health agencies also will be reviewed more thoroughly.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said a team of federal, state and local investigators analyzed billing data in South Florida for unusual patterns. They visited companies billing Medicare, Leavitt said, but often found nobody present during business hours.

“We believe scores of shell companies have opened and obtained Medicare supplier numbers in Miami-Dade County alone,” Gonzales said.

In other instances, investigators found where doctors in HIV clinics were paid to issue unneeded prescriptions to complicit patients. The patients were paid off for use of their Medicare cards.

“In some instances, patients actually receive no medication, or the wrong medications during infusion, putting them at a substantial risk of harm,” Gonzales said.

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