A day after President Barack Obama touted his administration’s tough stance on health care fraud, Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. met with reporters in Washington to announce the latest nationwide sting targeting dozens of alleged scammers in cities in across the country.
Holder, speaking at a news conference at the U.S. Justice Department for the first time in recent months, heralded an enforcement action in which 91 people—including doctors, nurses and hospital officials—were charged in schemes that involved more than $429 million in alleged false billings.
The charges, based on alleged schemes that include billing for services that were not necessary or not rendered at all, were brought against defendants in cities including Miami, Chicago, Dallas and Los Angeles.
“Such activities not only siphon precious taxpayer resources, drive up health care costs, and jeopardize the strength of the Medicare program—they also disproportionately victimize the most vulnerable members of society, including elderly, disabled, and impoverished Americans,” Holder said in a prepared statement. “And, unfortunately, we allege that many of those charged today not only broke the law—but also violated their professional obligations, and sacred oaths, as medical practitioners.”
In his remarks, Holder said a nationwide task force focusing on health care fraud has been able to return more than $10 billion to public coffers since 2009—echoing a point Obama made during Wednesday’s first presidential debate.
“We went after medical fraud in Medicare and Medicaid very aggressively—more aggressively than ever before, and have saved tens of billions of dollars,” Obama said. “Fifty billion dollars of waste taken out of the system.”
As press conferences go, Thursday’s was relatively tame. After Holder’s presentation, Justice Department reporters pressed the attorney general about other goings on in the world—in particular, for details about the investigation into the attack in Libya in September that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
“I am confident that through the steps that we are taking, and that we plan to take,” the government will examine the crime scene in Benghazi “and hold accountable those people who committed those dastardly acts,” Holder said. He declined to say whether the government has identified any suspects.
Questioned about the extent to which federal agents have been able to inspect the consulate grounds, Holder said “you should not assume that all that we could do or have been doing is restricted solely to Benghazi.”
“There are a variety of other places in the country and outside of the country where relevant things could be done and have been done,” the attorney general said. “I’m satisfied with the progress that we have made.”
Holder on Thursday wasn’t asked about the pending lawsuit in Washington’s federal trial court that seeks internal DOJ documents concerning the Operation Fast and Furious gun trafficking scandal. House Republicans held Holder in contempt in June over his refusal to disclose certain internal documents.
The attorney general also didn’t field any questions on Wednesday’s presidential debate in Denver, the first of three between Obama and Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee.
After the press conference ended, Holder told reporters in a hallway that, yes, he watched the debate. What did he think about Obama’s performance, which has faced criticism from some on the left?
“I thought he did fine,” Holder said.
Contact Mike Scarcella at firstname.lastname@example.org.