Crankin’up the HEAT

HEAT is the rather odd acronym for the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team. It is the brainchild of Attorney General Holder and Health and Human Services Secretary Sebelius, and despite the great stretches of the imagination it takes to make it work as an acronym (HCFPEAT doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue), it seems to be taking a bite out of health care fraud.

HEAT is a coordinated effort between DOJ and HHS, and it has a Medicare Fraud Strike Force that has been going around various cities busting health care fraud perps. It’s operating in various locations, including South Florida, but no, you are not likely to see Attorney General Holder wearing a Miami Vice suit and driving a go-fast boat into a medical center.

In recent testimony given before the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health and Oversight, Edward Siskel, the Associate Deputy Attorney General, stated that since May 2009, the Strike Force has been putting fear in the hearts of health care fraudsters. Strike Force prosecutors have filed over 120 cases charging more than 290 defendants and have obtained 16 convictions. The Strike Force also appears to have had a deterrent effect. In the twelve months since the Strike Force was announced, the Miami area has seen an almost $2 billion reduction in durable medical equipment submissions compared to the preceding 12 month period.

Deputy AG Siskel also notes in his testimony statistics all too familiar to qui tamers: the bulk of the DOJ’s civil case load comprises suits against drug and medical device makers. Qui tam suits have proved to be an important weapon in the DOJ’s fraud-fighting arsenal, and have helped the government to recover $24 billion since 1986. This goes to show that the civil justice system is just as important as the swaggering Task Force in the fight against health care fraud.

This article is brought to you by the QTT, the epicenter for whistleblowers and people interested in the False Claims Act, Qui Tam Provisions, and Medicare and Medicaid fraud. To discuss a potential case, please call Eric Young at 1 (800) 590-4116.