HHS' inspector general's office for the first time put a price on wheelchair fraud, saying investigators have identified nearly $167 million in fraudulent claims for medically unnecessary motorized wheelchairs, many of which were never delivered to beneficiaries. The CMS and the inspector general's office in September announced an ongoing program to curb abuses, Operation Wheeler Dealer. Medicare spending for wheelchairs has more than quadrupled since 1999, reaching a projected $1.2 billion in 2003, and the number of claims for wheelchairs is expected to top 170,000 this year compared with 55,000 in 1999. Schemes include companies billing Medicare for wheelchairs that were never delivered or pressuring seniors to accept wheelchairs that weren't medically necessary. A spokeswoman said the inspector general's office has ongoing investigations in 25 states and has collected $52 million to date from wheelchair fraud settlements. -- by Mark Taylor
Wheelchair fraud a $167 million problem, U.S. says
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