The FBI is focusing more attention on an increasingly common practice by hospitals, paying physicians to relocate to work at the hospitals' facilities, a potential kickback arrangement, said Tim Delaney, head of the FBI's healthcare fraud unit.
The unit, which has agents in 56 offices nationwide, investigates about 2,000 cases at any given time, with prescription drugs and durable medical equipment among the top areas of growing fraud, Delaney said.
Most hospital cases continue to center on erroneous cost reporting, he said.
Delaney was speaking at a news conference held by the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, which announced that its fraud recoveries had grown 52% to $240 million in 2003.
Byron Hollis, the Blues' national antifraud director, said the association's recently created antifraud strike force has been a big help in coordinating fraud-fighting efforts across jurisdictions and with government agencies. Of the estimated $1.7 trillion spent in the U.S. on healthcare in 2003, $85 billion was lost to fraud, Hollis said.
Healthcare "is where the money is," Delaney said. "That's where the crooks are going these days."