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HHS and U.S. top cop warn about Medicare fraud

by Brendon Nafziger, DOTmed News Associate Editor | June 09, 2010
As checks go out to seniors
they must be wary of fraud
As $250 rebate checks for the prescription drug "doughnut hole" reach the mailboxes of seniors this week, U.S. Health and Human Services and the country's top prosecutor warn state attorneys general to watch out for a spike in Medicare fraud.

"We are heading into the week when our first tax-free $250 doughnut hole rebate checks will be mailed out to Medicare beneficiaries who have fallen into the coverage gap," write HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in a letter to state AGs. "Accordingly, we are especially concerned about fraud and increased activity by criminals seeking to defraud seniors -- and we are seeking your help to stop it."

In the letter, Sebelius and Holder mention that the U.S. health agency is supposed to cut Medicare fraud and waste by half over the next two years.

To accomplish that, the agency is increasing the size of its "Medicare Patrol," which trains the elderly in how to spot and report on fraud, as well as trying to improve coordination with state and federal law enforcement officials. For that, it's convening a series of regional summits around the country, with the first taking place in Miami July 16. Subsequent summits will arrive in Los Angeles, Detroit, Las Vegas, Boston, New York and Philadelphia, the HHS said.

The agency is also spending close to $1 million in a national radio campaign to warn Medicare beneficiaries about fraud risks.

The 30- and 60-second radio ads will air in several languages, including English, Spanish, Korean and Armenian, the HHS said in a statement.

Medicare fraud costs the government around $60 billion a year, according to the Washington Post.