Commentary: Rooting out Medicare fraud

According to legend, the late Willie Sutton, who stole an estimated $2 million during his 40-year crime spree, said that he robbed banks because ``that's where the money is.'' Poor Willie. By today's standards, he would be a piker, and a fool to boot.

Any self-respecting thief could tell him that the real money these days is in Medicare fraud. The money's better, there's less chance of getting caught and it's safer than walking into a bank full of armed guards and yelling, ``Stick 'em up!'' Last week's takedown of a Miami-based Medicare fraud factory offers an audacious case in point.

Federal prosecutors charged four executives of American Therapeutic Corp., the nation's largest chain of mental-health clinics, with scheming to fleece $200 million from Medicare by submitting bogus claims. Medicare actually paid the company $83 million since 2003.

Hurrah! We're all in favor of shutting down criminal enterprises, but it's nothing short of outrageous that a crime of such mind-boggling scope could be allowed to go undetected for so long. Taxpayers should be alarmed about what this story reveals regarding the government's poor record of dealing with Medicare fraud.

The most troubling aspect is that the alleged conspiracy had been going on for some eight years before the government got wind of it. How many bogus claims does a company have to submit before someone smells a rat?

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