Florida Medicare Fraud Charges and Penalties + Statute Of Limitations

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Medicaid and Medicare are funded by tax dollars at state and federal levels. The programs are designed to ensure vulnerable people, including those with low incomes, are able to receive healthcare. When people are given benefits that they are not entitled to, tax dollars are wasted and services are taken from people who need them.

Medicare/Medicaid fraud is the intentional misrepresentation or deception of a health care provider while knowing that doing so will give them, or someone else, benefits.

There are different categories of Medicare/Medicaid fraud, including:

  • Billing for patients who didn’t receive any services
  • Billing for equipment or services that were not provided
  • Billing for services and items that a patient no longer needs
  • Overcharging for services or equipment
  • Concealing associations or ownership in a related company
  • Paying “kickback” for referrals
  • Billing the same service more than once
  • Ordering prescriptions and tests that are not needed

Laws and Penalties

The penalties for Medicare/Medicaid fraud can be very harsh. They often involve multiple offenses and these are often charged at both federal and state levels. Some of the possible laws and penalties include:

  • Imprisonment: The prison sentence at federal level varies depending on how much money was involved. Fraud up to $120,000 carries a maximum prison sentence of one year. If it was above $400,000, sentences are usually between two and three years.
  • Fines: Federal convictions carry fines equal or up to twice as much the actual loss. Individuals carry a fine of $250,000 and corporations carry a fine of up to $400,000, whichever is greater.
  • Medical sanctions: Providers, including physicians, are likely to lose their professional license and can be barred from any future contracts with Medicare/Medicaid for life.
  • Multiple counts: Every single false claim is an individual offense. If dozens or hundreds of billings have been done fraudulently, maximum sentences can be requested. Additionally, the same offense can be trialed at both federal and state levels.
  • RICO prosecutions: Additional criminal penalties can be carried if fraud falls under RICO, as well as forfeiture of assets.
  • Civil lawsuits: Some fraud offenses can also be sued under RICO civilly, which can lead to triple damages.

Medicare/Medicaid Fraud Defenses

The reality is that the procedures for billing Medicare/Medicaid are incredibly complicated. There are new codes every year, and the way they are interpreted can be confusing. Indeed, the majority of medical offices outsource their coding in order to do it properly. At the same time, however, many of these companies where the work is outsourced can still have problems. However, this is a common defense.

Another common defense is that the patients who have been billed simply do not remember that they had treatment. Elderly patients, for instance, can often get confused. It is incredibly hard to prove that a procedure did not take place, particularly if your own records are not in order.

If wrongdoings have been committed, a good lawyer can petition the government not to take action, or at least not to prosecute. Essentially, a pre-trial diversion can be requested, which means criminal prosecution is avoided. However, restitution and fines usually have to be paid. Additionally, these agreements are usually only made to avoid prosecution against a full organization, such as a hospital, meaning the individual can still be criminally prosecuted.

Statute of Limitations

There is a statute of limitations on most, although not all, crimes. The statute of limitations for fraud, however, is particularly complicated. This is because the statute often doesn’t start running until it has been discovered that fraud has been committed. Hence, although the statute tends to be five years, this period starts after discovery of the fraud. Furthermore, the statute can be tolled if the person under investigation is out of state.

Medicare/Medicaid Fraud Cases

REFERENCES:

  • http://www.leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?mode=View%20Statutes&SubMenu=1&App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_String=409.9203&URL=0400-0499/0409/Sections/0409.9203.html
  • http://myfloridalegal.com/pages.nsf/4492d797dc0bd92f85256cb80055fb97/ebc480598bbf32d885256cc6005b54d1!OpenDocument
  • http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/privacy/hipaa/administrative/statute/hipaastatutepdf.pdf
  • http://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/civil/legacy/2011/04/22/C-FRAUDS_FCA_Primer.pdf
  • http://www.justice.gov/usao/eousa/foia_reading_room/usam/title9/110mcrm.htm
Geoffrey Nathan, Esq.

About Geoffrey Nathan, Esq.

Geoffrey G Nathan is a top federal crimes lawyer and Chief Editor of FederalCharges.com. He is a licensed attorney in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts since 1988, admitted to practice in both Federal and State courts. If you have questions about your federal case he can help by calling 877.472.5775.