But as investigators began to unravel the incident, they say they found something far different: a massive scheme to defraud taxpayer-funded healthcare programs of millions of dollars by recruiting homeless patients for unnecessary medical services.
The elaborate enterprise churned thousands of indigents through hospitals over the last four years and billed Medicare and Medi-Cal for costly and unjustified medical procedures, federal, state and local investigators said Wednesday.
Those involved in the alleged conspiracy "ranged from street-level operatives to the chief executive of a hospital," U.S. Atty. Thomas P. O'Brien said.
Another abuse of government funding. Doesn't come as a surprise. This is what happens when you have government health care.
According to court filings, "runners" or "stringers" on skid row looked for homeless recruits. Prospects were offered small sums of money, typically $20 or $30, to be paid upon completion of a hospital stay of one to three days. The street recruiter typically received $40 for each homeless recruit with Medicare eligibility and $20 for each recruit with Medi-Cal benefits, according to the city attorney's lawsuit.
Some solicitations were direct, but others were coded, according to the city attorney's lawsuit. One alleged street pitch referred to the color scheme of the Medi-Cal eligibility card: "Red, white and blue, just make it do what it do, for me and you."
I have to hand it to them. It takes some moxy to have such an elaborate setup and to be selling government fraud on street corners...
From the New York Times:
Alleged Scheme Involved Homeless
LOS ANGELES — An investigation into what the authorities say was a scheme that used homeless people to bilk tens of millions of dollars from federal and state health insurance programs began four years ago with a tip from a rescue mission employee.
The employee, Scott Johnson, who works for the Union Rescue Mission in the heart of Skid Row, said he had noticed vans and cars loading up homeless people.
“Sometimes they were so full of people that they put people in the trunks of cars,” Mr. Johnson said Thursday as he passed out bottles of water to the homeless. “I wondered what was going on, so I called the state authorities.”
They certainly were not bashful about it. I guess you need a production line and a feeder if you want to generate millions of $ worth of claims.
And then their was this interesting quote from the times:
Although Medicare scams are relatively common, Mr. O’Brien said they usually implicated small clinics or doctors’ offices. The scale and duration of this enterprise is unusual, investigators said.
The fact that medicare scams are "relatively common" is just a thought in passing. The fact that this is the case doesn't merit much discussion. This case is just exceptional in scope. Perhaps they should look at numbers for health care expenditures on the homeless across the nation. They might even notice a patern.
Auditors of Medicare fraud should get down to busting businesses
Medicare bureaucrats promised to fix bogus billing six years ago, but the shenanigans continue. Our federal government gave $11 billion to crooked doctors and medical suppliers last year.
In South Florida, federal agents found that one out of three medical equipment businesses billing Medicare didn't exist. Unfortunately, they discovered that after the bogus "businesses" raked in $97 million in 2006.
Government Health Care is building on the great tradition of government housing and government schools. Let's hear it for Government Health Care! Sphere: Related Content