Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, along with US Attorney General Eric Holder, announced the creation of the [removed]Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team [/removed](HEAT), an interagency effort designed to prevent Medicare fraud.

As part of its Work Plan for FY 2009, the Office of Inspector General previously announced that it is investigating the appropriateness of Medicare payments for both sleep studies and CPAP devices. The introduction of HEAT is another sign of the government’s serious initiative to crack down on Medicare fraud.

“Today, we are turning up the heat on perpetrators who steal from the taxpayers and threaten the future of Medicare and Medicaid,” said Sebelius. “Most providers are doing the right thing and providing care with integrity. But we cannot and will not allow billions of dollars to be stolen from Medicare and Medicaid through fraud, waste, and serious abuse of the system."

She added that the time was right to "protect the American taxpayers and lower the cost of health care." It was also announced that Medicare fraud strike force teams, which help identify fraud in South Florida and Los Angeles, will soon be created in Detroit and Houston. HEAT will also focus on preventing fraud by building on proven projects, increasing visits to suppliers of durable medical equipment to ensure they are legitimate.

In addition to visiting the HEAT site, anyone suspecting Medicare fraud is encouraged to call (800) HHS-TIPS (447-8477).

“The American people are some of our best weapons in the fight against Medicare fraud,” said Sebelius. “Fraud is happening in communities across the country right now and we need the American people to blow the whistle on thieves and criminals who are stealing from all of us.”