Eighty-nine people, including 14 doctors and nurses, have been charged for their roles in separate Medicare scams that billed the taxpayer-funded program for roughly $223 million in bogus charges in massive busts across the country this week, federal authorities said Tuesday.
It was the latest in a string of similar announcements by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. as federal authorities crack down on fraud that's believed to cost the program between $60 billion and $90 billion each year.
Stopping Medicare's budget from hemorrhaging that money will be key to paying for President Barack Obama's health care overhaul. Sebelius and Holder partnered in 2009 to increase enforcement by allocating more money and staff and creating strike forces in fraud hot spots around the country.
Miami, long known as ground zero for the complex scams, was again at the center of this week's busts, with 25 people charged Monday and Tuesday for their role in various schemes.
Authorities allege five defendants in one scheme bribed Medicare patients for their ID numbers, allowing them to bill for $51 million in home health services that were never given or were not medically necessary.
Nine of those arrested in the operation will be prosecuted in the Middle District of Florida, though none of those arrested are from the Tampa Bay area.
They include a woman from Ocala who was licensed to provide care for disabled and indigent patients, but who billed Medicare for more than $100,000 in fake charges. The U.S. Attorney's Office said she will plead guilty next month in Tampa.