Feds target corporate executives for healthcare fraud

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US federal enforcement officials are now targeting corporate executives over alleged healthcare fraud as opposed to merely targeting companies and negotiating with corporate lawyers.

The government is bearing down on companies which actively engage in the healthcare industry with a specific focus on Medicare and Medicaid. The new approach has many companies who are in the drug and medical fields paying closer attention.

Previously dealings over fraud were handled by corporate lawyers and government lawyers, a settlement was reached and the company wrote a check to the government. This has changed. On top of fines and a corporate legal settlement, corporate executives are now being personally held accountable.

Under the shift in enforcement corporate executive can be held on criminal charges for corporate actions, even if they were not directly involved. Further, they can be banned from working in the healthcare industry.

The industry has responded by calling the new tactics overkill and inappropriate given corporate executives may not be guilty nor have knowledge of some insider ongoings.

The government disagrees, alleging that repeat offences at companies were becoming problematic and this was their own solution.

"When you look at the history of health care enforcement, we've seen a number of Fortune 500 companies that have been caught not once, not twice, but sometimes three times violating the trust of the American people, submitting false claims, paying kickbacks to doctors, marketing drugs which have not been tested for safety and efficacy," Lewis Morris, chief counsel for the inspector general of the Health and Human Services Department told AP. "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."

Morris argued that corporations do not understand and are not changing their ways, thus new tactics must be adopted.