Hard as this may be for people outside of Washington, D.C. to believe, there are actually folks here who read Inspector General (IG) reports about waste and fraud in the federal government.
Read any five IG reports at random and odds are good much of what you read will be about health care fraud.
Take, for example, the IG at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Daniel Levinson. He may well have put more people in jail for Medicare or Medicaid fraud than any other federal official ever.
Just from April 1 to April 25, Levinson's office racked up convictions involving more than $515 million worth of health care fraud committed by 10 people and a half-dozen firms, including two major corporations.
The convictions range from a Florida physician who wrote 6,667 prescriptions as part of scheme to "distribute oxycodone and oxymorphone, possession of oxycodone and oxymorphone with intent to distribute those drugs, and conspiracy to commit health care fraud," to a plea deal by the McKesson Corp. to pay $190 million in fines for over-charging Medicaid for drugs.
There were also convictions of the Walgreens Pharmacy chain for $7.9 million in false claims in connection gifts the corporation offered to federal health program beneficiaries who agreed to transfer their business to the firm, and of an Atlanta man who falsely billed Medicare and Medicaid for nearly $33 million through a chain of nursing homes where conditions were termed "horrendous" by government investigators.
And it doesn't appear to matter whether the crimes are big or small, committed by huge coporations or lone-wolf white-collar criminals, as Levinson's troops also put away a Washington, D.C. man for falsely billing Medicare for $71,000 in home health care claims.
These cases cover just most of the month of April, and don't include nearly a dozen more indictments involving multiple individuals and companies who were charged during the month with hundreds of millions of dollars more in fraud.
So what is it about the government's health care programs that make them such inviting targets for white collar criminals?
The IG system was established in 1978 by President Carter in his landmark Civil Service Reform Act. Since their inception, the IGs have exposed billions of dollars of waste and fraud throughout the federal government.
Before serving as the HHS IG under President Obama, Levinson was appointed by President Reagan as chairman of the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) and by President George W. Bush as the IG at the General Services Administration.