The HHS' inspector general office saved taxpayers $16.8 billion in the first six months of fiscal 2004, beginning Oct. 1, 2003, and ended March 31, the agency said in its semiannual report. The amount is nearly $4 billion more than last year. During the same period, the inspector general excluded 1,544 healthcare providers, helped prosecute cases resulting in 234 convictions of people who defrauded government health programs, and undertook 107 civil actions. "The office of the inspector general will continue to be an aggressive force within HHS, not only to improve the efficiency of the department, but to punish those who defraud its programs," Dara Corrigan, acting principal deputy inspector general said in a statement.
The report cites endeavors occupying the nation's chief healthcare fraud enforcement agency, noting the resolution of large settlements, such as last year's HCA payment of $631 million to settle remaining civil claims against the Nashville-based hospital chain and other recoveries from home health, nursing home, durable medical equipment and pharmaceutical companies. -- by Mark Taylor