Federal authorities charged more than 100 doctors, nurses and physical therapists in nine cities with Medicare fraud Thursday, part of a massive nationwide bust that snared more suspects than any other in history.
More than 700 law enforcement agents fanned out to arrest dozens of people accused of illegally billing Medicare more than $225 million. The arrests are the latest in a string of major busts in the past two years as authorities have struggled to pare the fraud that’s believed to cost the government between $60 billion and $90 billion each year. Stopping Medicare’s budget from hemorrhaging that money will be key to paying for President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Attorney General Eric Holder partnered in 2009 to allocate more money and manpower in fraud hot spots. Thursday’s indictments were for suspects in Miami, Los Angeles, Dallas, Houston, Detroit, Chicago, Brooklyn, Tampa, Fla., and Baton Rouge, La.
They show that “health care fraud is not easy money,” Holder said at a press conference in Washington.
A podiatrist performing partial toenail removals was among 21 indicted in Detroit. Dr. Errol Sherman is accused of billing Medicare about $700,000 for the costly and unnecessary procedures, which authorities said amounted to little more than toenail clippings. The podiatrist billed Medicare for 20 nail removals on three toes of one patient, according to the indictment. He charged Medicare about $110 for each procedure.