Under the newly reformed health care laws championed by President Barack Obama, it’s not only what people pay for insurance that will change, but also the way people pay for insurance crime.
The number of prosecutions for health insurance fraud is already 85 percent higher in 2011 than it was in 2010, thanks to new and expanded health care fraud teams created by the reform, USA Today reported.
Last year, the government recovered a record $4 billion from health care fraud under the nascent laws. This year, the haul could be even larger with the increase in prosecutions.
The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a non-partisan group at Syracuse University that submits Freedom of Information Requests and analyzes the findings, released data on the prosecutions from the Justice Department.
In the first eight months of 2011, the Justice Department has already prosecuted 903 cases, compared to the 731 prosecuted in all of 2010.
If the rate of prosecutions holds steady, TRAC predicted about 1,350 cases this year, just short of double last year’s prosecutions.
The increase is due to a crackdown on private agencies, as well as a few large busts that boosted numbers. In February, for example, 111 people in nine cities were charged with Medicare fraud in a connected ring — the largest-ever federal health fraud takedown, representing $225 million in fraudulent claims.
“The trend certainly looks accurate and on track with our data,” Justice Department spokeswoman Alisa Finelli told USA Today, though she said she could not confirm the exact numbers.
Convictions from task force action are also up. Last year, 23 Medicare fraud convictions were made. This year, there have been 24 convictions and rising.
The Justice Department’s criminal division Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer praised the work of the task forces.
“That’s just a stunning number when you see it in the first eight months,” he said. “We’re just going to build on this model, and we’re going to hold those responsible who are stealing from the government.”