Continued from page 2

Earlier this month, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Michael O. Leavitt announced a two-year effort to root out fraud in companies providing power scooters, wheelchairs and other equipment to Medicare recipients.

Federal strike forces were deployed in South Florida and Southern California, and officials hope to expand the program nationwide.

Florida-based Lincare Inc., which received $68,985 from the District’s Medicaid office last year, paid $12 million to the federal government last year to resolve an investigation into kickbacks to doctors.

The company admitted no wrongdoing, but federal authorities said their investigation showed Lincare gave doctors golf outings, fishing trips, meals and purported consulting deals for referrals.

Malcolm Sparrow, a professor at Harvard University and author of “License to Steal: How Fraud Bleeds America’s Health Care System,” said a major reason Medicaid fraud often goes undetected is because states are under pressure to administer and pay out claims quickly.

“The cheapest way to pay claims is not to question them,” he said.

However, Miss Abrar said many investigations into fraud begin with internal reviews by the city’s Medicaid office.

D.C. Council member David A. Catania, at large independent and chairman of the council’s Committee on Health, said he was “very concerned” by the investigations.

“I’ll be watching the investigations closely,” he said. “If the government is being cheated, I want to know by whom and how much.”