Feds target individuals, not just companies, in healthcare fraud cases

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In an effort to crack down on healthcare fraud repeat offenders, the federal government is going after individuals at nursing home chains, drug companies, medical device manufacturers and other providers that receive Medicare and Medicaid funding, according to the Associated Press.  

Under this strategy, executives could face criminal charges. Traditionally, corporate lawyers brokered financial settlements with accused parties, thus shielding executives from any blame. But as federal investigators recognized they were dealing with the same companies over and over again — at a taxpayer cost of $60 billion a year — they decided to see if the prospect of finding individuals responsible could improve fraud rates, the AP reported.

"To our way of thinking, the men and women in the corporate suite aren't getting it," said Lewis Morris, chief counsel for the inspector general of the Health and Human Services Department. “If writing a check for $200 million isn't enough to have a company change its ways, then maybe we have got to have the individuals who are responsible for this held accountable. The behavior of a company starts at the top."

Opponents of this enforcement method say this is an example of government overreach and argue that it will be difficult to prosecute individuals who may or may not have knowledge that something illegal was occurring.  Officials are closely following a lawsuit against the drug maker Forest Laboratories, which stands accused of distributing an unapproved thyroid drug, among other charges, the AP reported. Depending on the outcome, the suit could become a linchpin for future cases against drug manufacturers.

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