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Fraud Press Conference

Miami, FL
July 16, 2010

Thank you, Attorney General Holder.

I want to join the Attorney General in acknowledging FBI Director Mueller, HHS Inspector General Dan Levinson, US Attorney Willy Ferrer, and all the officials and law enforcement agents across the country who played a part in the announcement we’re making this morning.

When President Obama charged the Attorney General and me with leading a new health care anti-fraud task force last year, he stressed that we needed to work across government as a team – breaking down barriers between agencies, sharing information, and coordinating strategy. This morning, Americans are seeing that approach pay off.

The arrests we’re announcing today are the latest sign that our renewed efforts to stamp out health care fraud – which began last year – are working.

And the overall numbers show progress too. While we don’t have data yet for 2010, returns to Medicare and Medicaid last year from anti-fraud efforts were up 29 and 28 percent respectively.

That said, it would be a mistake use the number of arrests and amount of money recovered as the only measures of success for our anti-fraud efforts. Prosecuting fraud is just half of our strategy.

Our ultimate goal is to prevent these crimes from happening in the first place.

That’s why in addition to law enforcement actions like the ones we’ve taken today, we’ve also launched an ambitious national effort to block criminals at every step of the fraud process – from making it harder for corrupt providers to participate in Medicare or Medicaid to helping law enforcement agents analyze claims data to find suspicious patterns that could indicate fraud.

We’re making a special effort to slash waste and fraud from Medicare. Earlier this year, the President called on our department to halve these improper payments in Medicare by 2012. Many are just paperwork errors, which we can reduce by working with doctors and promoting electronic health records.

But a lot of that money is going into the pockets of criminals. So we’ve embraced one of the best ways to protect seniors from fraud, which is helping them protect themselves.

To do that, we’re conducting a broad national outreach campaign to educate America’s seniors about the dangers of fraud. Over the last few months, we’ve mailed a brochure to every beneficiary explaining what the Affordable Care Act does and doesn’t do, I’ve visited with seniors across the country, and we’ve reached out through programs like the Senior Medicare Patrol, in which seniors educate their friends and neighbors about how to resist, recognize, and report fraud.

All of these anti-fraud efforts got a huge boost in March when Congress passed what’s secretly one of the strongest health care anti-fraud laws in American history: the Affordable Care Act. Thanks to the new health care law, we’re getting better tools to prevent fraud, tougher sentences for criminals who get caught, and an extra $350 million over the next ten years to put more boots on the ground.

That means for a potential criminal, it’s getting harder to submit false claims; if you do, you’re more likely to get caught; and when you get caught, you’re going to pay the price.

The arrests we made this morning are a sign that these efforts are making progress. But Americans should know that we are not satisfied.

That’s why later today, Attorney General Holder and I will host the first of seven regional fraud summits right here in Miami. We want to hear the best ideas from law enforcement, business leaders, health care providers, patients, and caregivers about how we can work together more effectively to keep criminals on the defensive.

We’re holding these summits because our highest responsibility in government is to protect taxpayer dollars. At a time when families across the country are tightening their belts, they can’t afford to watch their premiums soar even higher to cover fraudulent claims. Americans deserve to know that we’re doing everything we can to keep criminals out of the health care system.

So today, we have the same message for hard-working Americans and the scam artists who steal their health care dollars: we’re just getting started.