The number of healthcare fraud investigations by the FBI has grown sixfold since 1991, and the number of people convicted has more than tripled since 1992.
These are some of the results in a 40-page report on healthcare fraud released last week by the U.S. Justice Department. It's the department's second such report, and it focused on fiscal 1995 and 1996.
Fraud schemes are becoming more sophisticated and, according to the government, no industry segment is immune.
"Healthcare fraud is the crime of the '90s," the report said.
While an exact accounting of the toll of healthcare fraud isn't known, the report cited General Accounting Office estimates that as much as $100 billion may be lost annually to fraud, waste and abuse.
The government's stepped up efforts to combat healthcare fraud are working, according to the report.
The number of FBI healthcare fraud investigations shot up to 2,200 in 1996 from 365 in 1991. Similarly, the number of convictions increased to 307 defendants in 177 cases in 1996 from 90 defendants in 59 cases in 1992; 1991 numbers weren't available.
The government has seen an increase in civil cases, too.
According to the report, the number of civil healthcare fraud investigations handled by the Justice Department jumped to 2,488 in 1996 from 270 in 1992.
The department's civil division estimates $274 million was recovered in healthcare fraud cases in 1995 and 1996.
Many healthcare fraud cases are brought under the federal False Claims Act, which has stiff penalties for ripping off the government. Penalties can be as high as $10,000, plus triple damages, for each violation.
The report also shows a huge increase in whistleblower, or qui tam, lawsuits. Such suits are filed by citizens on behalf of the federal government, and the plaintiffs receive a share of any damages the government collects.
In 1996 361 cases were filed and 200 of them had allegations of healthcare fraud, while in 1992 119 cases were filed and 14 of them alleged healthcare fraud.