A bill from two members of the Florida delegation in Congress toughening the penalties for committing Medicare fraud is gaining steam on Capitol Hill.
Back in July, U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., and U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Fla., both of whom represent the Tampa Bay area, brought out the “Medicare Civil and Criminal Penalties Update Act.” The proposal raises civil and criminal fines on people convicted of Medicare fraud.
“The Medicare program is absolutely critical for seniors in the Tampa Bay area and across the country,” Bilirakis said when showcased the bill in July. “Not only is fraud and abuse in Medicare an affront to hardworking taxpayers, it hurts the millions of seniors who rely on the program. I’m proud to be working with my fellow Tampa Bay representative, Congresswoman Castor, to ensure Medicare is strong for today’s and tomorrow’s beneficiaries.”
“It is essential to crack down on Medicare fraud for our older neighbors and all taxpayers,” Castor said at that time. “I have championed bipartisan measures to expand fraud investigations and strengthen responses for victims – especially when ID tax fraud swept the state and nation – but more needs to be done as fraudsters find new ways to steal from our seniors and all taxpayers. Stricter penalties to weed out fraud and criminal activity in Medicare will protect seniors and future beneficiaries by helping to shore up the Medicare Trust Fund. I thank my Tampa Bay colleague, Congressman Bilirakis, for joining me to protect seniors and taxpayers in our state and across the country.”
On Wednesday, the bill picked up momentum as it moved through the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Health Subcommittee without opposition. Now the bill heads to the full committee.
“The Medicare program is absolutely critical for seniors in the Tampa Bay area and across the country,” Bilirakis said after the vote. “Not only is fraud in Medicare an affront to hardworking taxpayers, it hurts the millions of seniors who rely on the program. We recently had the largest health care fraud takedown in history, with 412 defendants charged nationwide. This includes more than 80 cases in Florida for Medicare fraud totaling about $1.3 billion in losses. We must stop the abuse, and my bill helps to make that happen.”
Over the summer, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that more than 400 people across the country, including more than 80 in Florida, were being charged with Medicare fraud which amounted to around $1.3 billion in losses. Some of these charges resulted from the Justice Department’s continued efforts against Medicare fraud.
“We will use every tool we have to stop criminals from exploiting the vulnerable people and stealing our hard-earned tax dollars,” U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions told Time about the Justice Department’s efforts, in July. “We are sending a clear message to criminals across this country: We will find you. We will bring you to justice. And you will pay a very high price for what you have done.”