Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, the man in charge of the Justice Departments criminal division, said he is committed to finding healthcare fraudsters, quickly shutting them down and sending them to jail.
Breuer was the lead witness in a Senate subcommittee hearing probing the role of criminal prosecution in combating healthcare fraud estimated to drain tens of billions of dollars from government health programs. His testimony came on the same afternoon his boss, Attorney General Eric Holder, stood with HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to announce a new cooperative team focused on combating fraud.
We must stanch the bleeding and we are committed to doing so, Breuer told the Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs.
Breuer said the administrations increased focus on healthcare fraud will include new multiagency strike forces in Houston and Detroit, replicating teams that have yielded impressive results in South Florida and then Los Angeles. Breuer said the strike force in Miami-Dade County has generated 129 guilty pleas and 18 convictions at trial, with an average prison sentence of 45 months, one month longer than the average meted out for healthcare fraud. Meanwhile, claims from the county dropped by $1.75 billion, he said.
Following Breuer, however, came a disheartening message from Malcolm Sparrow, professor of the practice of public management at Harvard Universitys John F. Kennedy School of Government. The resources the government invests in fighting healthcare fraud, he said, are not only inadequate, theyre of the wrong scale.
The government, Sparrow said, has only a vague idea of how much is being stolen from it, and its integrity programs do little to defend against criminals who are prepared to lie and need only know to bill their lies correctly. The seemingly impressive efforts of the kind Breuer described Sparrow likened to showing off a bucket of water scooped up while standing in the middle of a lake.