A bill from two members of the Florida delegation in Congress toughening the penalties for committing Medicare fraud passed through the House this week as part of a short term spending bill.
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.
Bilirakis weighed in on Tuesday after the House advanced his legislation which now heads to the Senate.
“Medicare is absolutely critical for seniors in the Tampa Bay area and across the country,” Bilirakis said. “Not only are these crimes an affront to hardworking taxpayers, they hurt the millions of seniors who rely on the programs and jeopardize the long-term sustainability of the program. I’m glad my fellow Tampa Bay representative, Congresswoman Kathy Castor, joined me to ensure Medicare is strong for today’s and tomorrow’s beneficiaries. I urge my Senate colleagues to pass this bill and send it to the president to become law.”
“It is essential to crack down on Medicare fraud for our older neighbors and all taxpayers,” Castor said when the bill was introduced in the summer. “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.”
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.”