Waste, fraud, and abuse in federal health care programs are serious problems, but so are the federal government’s efforts to combat them.
There are egregious cases of fraud, and those engaged in these criminal activities should be stopped and prosecuted. But an expanding dragnet for “health care criminals” is threatening and intimidating innocent doctors as well. It is creating an unhealthy climate of fear and defensiveness that is having an adverse impact on the medical profession.
In its zeal to rid the nation’s health care system of waste, fraud, and abuse, Congress has passed a blizzard of new federal criminal statutes targeting the health care industry, including those contained in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996. Congress created new “health care” laws on top of the existing mountain of rules and regulations and funded an army of enforcement agents. The statutes are being enforced by hundreds of federal agents, armed with hundreds of millions of dollars in investigatory funds. This new army of law enforcement agents has been sweeping through hospitals and doctors’ offices throughout the country to investigate a new class of “health care offenders.”