Florida cracks down on DME fraud

Monday, July 31, 2006

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - A crackdown on DME fraud in late June led to the arrest of four south Florida providers charged with defrauding Medicaid of $852,000. Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist said those arrests were only the beginning.
"Healthcare fraud can have a significant cost measured in both dollars and public health," said Crist in a statement. "We launched this investigation to protect patients and public resources from criminals and we are seeking quick results."
Joan Cross, director of operations for Bradenton, Fla.-based C&C HomeCare, said the state should have been cracking down all along.
"There's no need to sneak in," said Cross. "It's high time. All those folks do is give all of us a black eye. They're making a lot more money than me with their hit-and-run robberies."
Raul Lopez, president of the Florida Association of Medical Equipment Suppliers (FAMES), said Medicaid fraud across the board needs to be aggressively pursued.
"There has to be an equal amount of fraud in physician billing, lab services and diagnostic services," said Lopez. "Dental fraud is a huge fraud issue in Florida Medicaid that they have never addressed."
Unlike the influential American Medical and Dental associations, however, the HME industry does not band together to defend itself, said Lopez.
"If we had some hold on that (kind of power), I don't think it would be targeted toward us," said Lopez, who nevertheless agrees HME fraud is a problem.
"I am all for getting rid of the fraudulent providers, because when we get rid of the fraudulent providers, my business is going to go easier for me," he said.
Crist's late June investigation led to the arrest of Esteban Garcia, owner of Vital Medical Equipment; Roman Arias, owner of Expo Tech Services; Javier Laso, owner of S&M Medical Supply; and Alexei Garcia, owner of Dade Care Medical Equipment.