U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami, has reintroduced legislation that would double the fines and jail time for people convicted of Medicare fraud. It also creates a new criminal offense punishable with a 10 year minimum sentence for those who knowingly sell or distribute the ID numbers of Medicare beneficiaries.
The legislation also bars those who have been part of Medicare fraud in the past from billing Medicare if they switch companies. It also facilitates real-time information sharing among law enforcement agencies to aid in uncovering and dismantling Medicare scams.
"South Florida has been known as the epicenter of Medicare fraud for years," she said. "It is time we took the fight to those who seek to defraud Medicare and prey on our most vulnerable citizens. This bill not only increases the penalties for those who engage in Medicare fraud, but also sets up a pro-active paradigm that will help stem the tide of abuse in South Florida and across the nation."
The bill takes particular aim at Medicare theft in Miami-Dade County, widely regarded as the nation's capital of healthcare fraud. Medicare fraud in South Florida costs taxpayers between $3 billion and $4 billion every year, according to law enforcement and healthcare officials. Nationwide, Medicare and other healthcare fraud is estimated to cost $68 billion annually.