TAMPA — Four men set up four bogus medical clinics in Tampa.
They pay Medicare clients who allow the clinics to bill Medicare HMO insurance providers in their names for vein procedures they never undergo. Each clinic submits a separate bill for each patient, submitting multiple claims for the same procedures on the same individuals at the same time.
The scam went on for more than three years. Collectively, the men were able to steal more than $2.5 million from federal taxpayers.
They are part of a massive industry of cheats who have become a top priority for federal investigators who say they're concerned not only with the money being taken but also with the threat posed to public health by some of the schemes. In one of the cases, patients who need expensive intravenous drugs were given saline solution instead while the bad guys pocketed insurance payments for the drugs.
Healthcare fraud is estimated to cost the country $80 billion a year, and it's growing, according to the FBI and Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General.
And healthcare fraud prosecutions are on the rise nationwide, according to a recent report from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University, which tallied prosecutions brought under a specific Healthcare Fraud statute and found 366 cases last year, a 3 percent increase over the previous year.
In the Tampa area, the number of cases has fluctuated from year to year and was down in 2013, but officials anticipate ...