A new federal report points to South Florida as a hotspot of healthcare fraud. This report coincides with last week's jury verdict against the operators of a Miami mental health center. Both of these developments are examples of how prosecutors are increasingly focused on healthcare fraud cases in South Florida.
A new report from the Department of Health and Human Services says South Florida ranked unusually high in a study of potentially fraudulent Medicare billing. The department's inspector general said that South Florida had the highest number of suspicious health centers. Out of 200 questionable community mental health clinics cited in the report's analysis of data from 2010, 52 were located in South Florida and 32 were in the Miami area.
Last week, a federal jury convicted eight people for conspiracy to defraud Medicare out of $57 million. The defendants operated a purported mental health clinic like the ones criticized by the HHS report. The clinic apparently offered kickbacks to recruit Medicare patients with substance addictions. Some patients came from out of state because the clinic promised to provide housing. When patients arrived in the Miam area, the clinic put them up in half-way houses. If the patients stopped participating in the clinic's therapy programs, however, the defendants kicked them out.
The government prosecuted defendants at all levels of the organization. In addition to the eight convicted defendants, twenty more people pleaded guilty before trial.
The prosecuting attorney promised that authorities would pursue all participants in a healthcare fraud scheme, no matter what their role. Referral kickbacks and false billing are common instances of healthcare fraud.
Source: CBS Miami, "Report: No Area of U.S. Cheats Medicare More than S. Fla.," Aug. 30, 2012