DOJ touts $900M Medicare fraud takedown, the largest ever

WASHINGTON - The government says 300 people have been charged this year in health care fraud sweeps across the country. That includes physicians, clinic owners and other health care professionals accused of bilking Medicare.

In all, the fraudulent billings allegedly totaled $900 million, the Justice Department said. Authorities called it the largest-ever national Medicare fraud dragnet. More than 55 million people receive Medicare.

Medicare fraud: A $60 billion scam

An estimated 50 percent of the cases in the 2016 takedown involve some form of home health fraud, and about 25 percent involve pharmacy fraud.

The Justice Department says the hundreds of defendants billed for care in some form or another that was not necessary or services that were not rendered. The sweep spread from southern California to southern Florida and Houston to Brooklyn, New York.

While the individual cases may be unrelated, law enforcement agencies often coordinate the announcement of health fraud charges and arrests to send a message to fraudsters and the general public alike.

The trust fund that supports Medicare is now projected to run out of money in 2028 - two years earlier than projected last year.

If that happens, Medicare's fund for inpatient care would only be able to pay 87 percent of projected costs.