Health care fraud, one of the areas we cover on this blog, covers a variety of charges, including inflated billing of services, kickbacks or self-referrals, performing medically unnecessary services in order to bill, “upcoding,” and billing for non covered services. Medicare is one area where fraud often takes place. Because certain services are covered at a high rate by the program, there is an inviting opening for criminal activity.
Two weeks ago, a trial began against a doctor, two former ministers and a medical equipment company on charges of Medicare fraud. The defendants have been accused of stealing $2.5 million from Medicare.
The defendants were charged back in April with conspiracy to commit health care fraud and pay kickbacks. The activity being targeted allegedly took place between December 2003 and March 2009.
The two ministers were the pastor and the associate pastor at Lifeline Ministry in Baton Rouge, a reportedly inactive nonprofit. The medical equipment company charged with fraud is Unique Medical Solution, a Prairieville company that provided electric wheelchairs to individuals who weren’t in need of them, each prescription earning thousands of dollars.
The doctor charged in the case is a recognized expert in rehabilitative medicine, and has taught courses at Louisiana State University. He has been accused of receiving payment to write prescriptions for the unnecessary medical equipment.
Defense attorneys in the case disputed the allegations, and claim that the government has, in this case, made a mistake.
The trial was reportedly expected to last two weeks, meaning it should soon be wrapping up.
Source: Houston Chronicle, “$2.5M Medicare fraud trial starts in Baton Rouge,” August 2, 2011.