HHS' inspector general's division will open new offices in six cities within the next several months. The anti-fraud agency also plans eight new sites for next year.
The first six sites already have been named (See chart), and two new agents already are in place at the Cleveland office. A new site is also up and running in Nashville, home of Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp., which recently saw its El Paso, Texas, facilities raided by federal authorities. The agents apparently were looking for evidence of Medicare fraud.
According to a spokeswoman for the inspector general's office, there will be two agents on duty in Nashville by the end of this month. The new sites were chosen "based on the highest dollars of Medicare spending and the highest number of Medicare beneficiaries," the spokeswoman said.
The eight additional sites that will be opened in fiscal 1998, which begins Oct. 1, have yet to be determined, the spokeswoman said.
Besides the new sites, the inspector general's office will increase its staffing in 13 other locations by the end of the current fiscal year, eventually adding 25 new investigators in those cities.
The inspector general now operates offices in 26 states, with two offices in a handful of those states. It has about 190 agents, and that number will double to nearly 400 by 2002, the spokeswoman said.
The funding for the new agents came from last year's health insurance reform bill, which earmarked $70 million for the inspector general's total budget for fiscal 1997. That amount increases to $150 million by 2002. On top of that, the inspector general will receive $34 million from federal budgetary appropriations in 1997, down from about $75 million in 1996. That leaves the inspector general with a net increase of nearly $30 million over the prior year.