The U.S. attorney's office has formed a Los Angeles-based task force to investigate fraud in Medicare and other federal health-care programs, which is believed to be costing taxpayers billions of dollars a year, officials announced Tuesday.
The task force will focus on abuse by physicians, hospitals, home-health agencies, nursing homes, laboratories and the manufacturers and distributors of medical equipment and supplies, according to U.S. Atty. Nora Manella.
"The high dollar loss comes from the providers, not the beneficiaries," said Assistant U.S. Atty. Ronnie MacLaren, who will head the task force.
Southern California was targeted because officials believe that a substantial amount of the abuse occurs here, Manella said.
Although no specific figures were available, the U.S. attorney's office said health-care fraud and abuse in the public and private sectors total as much as $100 billion a year--roughly 10% of the amount spent on health care overall.
The federal task force, which will include prosecutors and investigators from the U.S. attorney's office, the FBI, the Postal Service, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, is being funded by a two-year Department of Justice grant, Manella said.
Task force members will concentrate on false claims submitted by providers to private insurers, as well as to government-funded health-care programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and the civilian Health and Medical Program of the uniformed services, Manella said.
Atty. Gen. Janet Reno has designated health care fraud as the federal government's top priority in fighting white-collar crime.
The public can call (818) 340-1176 to report suspected fraud and abuse in the health care field.