In a small sample of medical equipment companies whose Medicare billing privileges had been revoked for failing to return overpayments, six in 10 may have continued to collect Medicare payments through businesses fronted by associates and family members, HHS inspector generals office reported in an early alert memorandum.
The inspector generals office plans to conduct follow-up work exploring the apparent vulnerability raised by the limited review. Based on anecdotal reports of the practice, investigators selected a random sample of 10 durable medical-equipment companies in Texas with at least $50,000 in Medicare debt deemed uncollectible by the CMStogether they owed $8.6 millionand found links in public records between six of the sample companies and 15 other durable medical-equipment and home health companies, which received $58 million from Medicare during years the sample companies were disqualified.
In many cases, the common owners, managers or family members had been omitted from the Medicare enrollment applications. Most of the associated durable medical-equipment companies had accumulated their own Medicare debt and were kicked out of the program by 2005, but most of the home-health companies continued to get paid by the government as late as December 2007, the last month included in the review. -- by Gregg Blesch
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