January 24, 2011
Remarks as prepared for delivery
Good morning. I want to thank you all for joining us this morning for two announcements about this Administration’s unprecedented work to safeguard taxpayer dollars, secure Medicare, and stamp out health care fraud.
I’m glad to be joined today by three leaders in our fight against fraud, Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli, our Administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Dr. Don Berwick, and Dennis Jay, the Executive Director of the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud.
From day one, President Obama has made it clear that, in these difficult economic times when families are working to make every dollar count, eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse can’t be the job of a single agency or department. It needs to be a focus for every single one of us in government.
And today, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Justice Department are releasing a report, which shows that commitment is paying off.
Every year since 1997, our departments have sent updates to Congress about our efforts to crack down on the criminals who steal from our health care system.
The most recent report came out today, and it shows that in the last fiscal year, we had our most successful year ever, returning a record $4 billion to taxpayers. Many of those savings can be traced directly back to steps this Administration has taken in the last two years.
Under President Obama’s direction in the spring of 2009, Attorney General Holder and I formed a first-of-its-kind partnership called HEAT that brings together high-level leaders from both departments so that we can share information, spot trends, coordinate strategy, and develop new fraud prevention tools.
Since then, we have taken great strides in our fight against health care fraud.
For example, we have more than tripled the number of anti-fraud Strike Force teams operating in fraud hot spots around the country from two to seven, bringing hundreds of convictions against criminals who had billed Medicare for hundreds of millions of dollars.
We’ve also put a new focus on prevention, for example investing in technologies that flag suspicious billing patterns in Medicare and Medicaid spending the same way your credit card company raises the alarm when someone tries to buy 12 flat screen TVs with your credit card.
And we’ve empowered the group that’s more passionate about keeping criminals out of Medicare than any other: seniors themselves. Last year, volunteers in our Senior Medicare Patrol reached nearly one and a half million people with critical information about how to protect themselves from fraud. The more seniors know how to recognize and report these crimes, the more reluctant criminals will be to try them.
In 2010, we took more steps to carve out fraud and abuse from Medicare than in any other year in our nation’s history. But we still have a lot of work left to do.
That’s why today, we’re also announcing new steps we’ll be taking as part of the Affordable Care Act to keep criminals on the defensive.
Over the last ten months, the health care law has been covered from many angles. But one fact that hasn’t been reported much is that this is one of the toughest anti-fraud laws in American history.
Under the new rules we’re announcing today, we’ll have tougher screenings for health care providers who want to participate in Medicaid or Medicare. The days when you could just hang a shingle and start billing the government are over.
Next, we’re going to make it easier for law enforcement to see health care claims information from different government agencies in one place so they can identify suspicious patterns.
Third, we’re going to increase the penalties for fraud. When you commit Medicare or Medicaid fraud, you’re stealing from every US taxpayer and you should be punished accordingly.
Fourth, we’re going to make it possible to withhold Medicare and Medicaid payments while an investigation is pending. Without interrupting reimbursements for honest providers, we’ll make it possible to cut off the flow of funds to suspected criminals before they can take the money and run.
Fifth, we’re going to provide $350 million in new resources to get more boots on the ground fighting fraud in communities across the country. As the report we’re releasing today shows, anti-fraud efforts pay for themselves many times over in money returned to taxpayers. That means going after fraud is one of the best investments we can make.
And this is just the start.
Taken together, the new rules we’re announcing today help replace a pay and chase approach that gave criminals a head start with a more proactive approach that focuses on preventing fraud before it happens.
As we implement these rules, we are mindful of two sacred trusts: our promise to taxpayers that we will spend every dollar wisely and our promise to seniors and all Americans that we will protect Medicare for this generation and generations to come.
In the past, we didn’t always take these responsibilities as seriously as we should have. But that’s changing. With an unprecedented partnership behind stamping out fraud, and a new health care law that boosts those efforts while slashing additional waste from Medicare to extend the life of the trust fund by twelve years, we are working harder than ever to keep these trusts.
The report we released today shows this work is paying off. And the new rules will allow us to keep this momentum going. In the months to come, we will continue to look for every opportunity we can find to safeguard Americans’ tax dollars and protect Medicare’s future.