The U.S. Justice Department recently announced that it recovered more than $3 billion in settlements and judgments in civil health care and war-related fraud cases in the last fiscal year. The vast majority of the $3 billion—$2.8 billion—was recovered under the whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act (FCA). Additionally, of the $3 billion, $2.4 billion involved health care fraud, most of which was attributed to the Medicare and Medicaid programs. Since January 2009, the Department has recovered $8.7 billion ($6.6 billion attributable to federal health care dollars), which is the largest three year total in the Department’s history.
The record setting recoveries under the whistleblower provisions of the FCA paralleled a sharp increase in the number of whistleblower lawsuits filed, which, after staying in the 300s to low 400s range for last decade, hit an all-time high at 638 in the last fiscal year. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care (PPACA) has added additional incentives for whistleblowers to report fraud in this manner.
But the federal government has not lost focus on private health insurance fraud, and the goverment recently reached a plea agreement with a Texas doctor who pleaded guilty to defrauding private insurers. The government pursued the case under federal mail fraud and conspiracy laws, and the doctor was sentenced to seventy months and sixty months of incarceration, respectively, and ordered to pay $3,821,082in restitution.
This case serves as a reminder that even though the primary focus has been recovering federal health care dollars—which has been viewed by many as a great success—private health insurance fraud is not beyond the scrutiny of federal prosecutors.