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Turning Up the Heat on Fraud

Secretary Sebelius discusses the anti-health care fraud provisions in the Affordable Care Act.

Ed. Note: Attorney General Eric Holder and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will discuss the Obama Administration’s efforts to fight fraud today using new tools provided by the Affordable Care Act at 4:00 PM EDT today.  Click here to watch.

As the Affordable Care Act has kicked in over the last few weeks, Americans around the country have been getting some long overdue good news about health care.  While most of us see this historic new law as an opportunity to give all of us more control over our own health care and bring down health care costs, there are others who are trying to use the new law to defraud seniors and try to rip off the system.

Sadly, criminals see health insurance reform an opportunity to launch new schemes. My message to them is this: there has never been a worse time to try to steal Americans’ health care dollars.

What these criminals may not know is that the Affordable Care Act is not just about making our health insurance system work better for families.  It’s also has some of the strongest anti-health care fraud provisions in American history.

Over the past year and a half, we have made great strides in fighting fraud, working with the Department of Justice and state and local partners to deploy innovative fraud-fighting strategies like our HEAT strike force. 

A new report released today by the Attorney General and I shows that our fraud-fighting efforts are working – in FY 2009 anti-fraud efforts put $2.51 billion back in the Medicare Trust Fund, a $569 million, or 29 percent, increase over FY 2008, and over $441 million in federal Medicaid money was returned to the Treasury, a 28 percent increase from FY 2008.
But criminals aren’t quitting yet. In just the past few weeks, in states from Delaware to Wyoming, we’re hearing unfortunate examples of schemers promising medical benefits to seniors in exchange for their personal information. These schemes are not only a threat to taxpayer dollars, but are potentially devastating to seniors seeking care.

That is why we’re turning up the heat on scam artists who try to defraud taxpayers and exploit consumers. The Affordable Care Act will improve our ability to detect, track and prevent fraud, through enhanced communication and transparency across agencies and geographic regions, and stronger penalties for criminals.

Over the next 10 years, we’ll be investing $600 million towards these detection and enforcement efforts – investments that studies have shown pay for themselves many times over. And we’ll be working to empower Americans to help us fight fraud by building strong coalitions on the state and local level with law enforcement and seniors groups to educate people about their rights and to enlist them to become fraud fighters too.

As the new law is implemented, we will aggressively work to safeguard our tax dollars and protect our seniors every step of the way.  Fighting fraud, strengthening Medicare and protecting seniors is the core of our mission when it comes to this new law and we will act swiftly and aggressively to both prevent fraud from happening and against those who break the law.

Kathleen Sebelius is Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services