Medical-equipment providers who either overcharge Medicare for motorized wheelchairs or obtain them for people who don't need them, can expect more intense scrutiny and face prosecution, USA Today
reports, based on Justice Department and Medicare records.
Nationwide, 16 people have been convicted this year of defrauding Medicare for $57 million, according to federal records. Six others are facing prosecution for running what federal prosecutors have called a nationwide ring that has cost the government at least $30 million, the newspaper reports.
Medicare plans to almost triple the number of anti-fraud strike forces it operates nationwide, from seven to 20, U.S. Health and Human Services Department budget documents show.
The cost of motorized wheelchairs to the government health service for senior citizens has risen from $259 million to $723 million, or 179 percent, from 1999 to 2009, the last year for which full records are available, according to records from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Advertisements for the wheelchairs, also called scooters, have skyrocketed nationwide in recent years, noting that on most cases Medicare will pay for the chairs.
A report released last week by Medicare's inspector general also showed that 61 percent of the motorized wheelchairs provided to Medicare recipients in the first half of 2007 went to people who didn't qualify for them.
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