Record number of fraud cases in past year
Federal prosecutors filed a record number of healthcare fraud cases last fiscal year, perhaps reflecting the greater emphasis the government has placed on combatting the crime costing taxpayers billions of dollars per year.
According to Justice Department statistics obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by a Syracuse University-based nonprofit group that tracks federal spending, staffing, and enforcement activities, prosecutors pursued 377 new federal healthcare fraud cases in the fiscal year that ended in October 2013. That was 3% more than the previous year and 7.7% more than five years ago.
Southern Illinois led the nation on a per-capita basis in such cases filed, with the government pursuing 10.1 prosecutions per 1 million people, which was more than eight times the national average. Southern Illinois U.S. Attorney Stephen Wigginton, JD, said he was surprised that his office was the top healthcare fraud prosecutor, but he noted that every U.S. attorney enjoys discretion in prioritizing which crime issues to combat, taking into account regional demographics and the U.S. attorney general’s desires.
Wigginton said he placed special emphasis on going after healthcare defrauders since he began overseeing his district more than three years ago. Since then, Wigginton’s office has increased such investigations each year.
Last year, more than 30 people were indicted for allegedly scamming a Medicaid program meant to allow individuals to stay in their homes instead of entering a nursing home.