Sunday, January 22, 2023
Telemedicine emerged as a lifeline during the COVID-10 pandemic. Although the technology existed long before the pandemic, its use was limited due to strict government regulations that limited reimbursement for telemedicine visits. In response to the pandemic, the Government waiver many of its restrictions for the duration of the Public Health Emergency. These changes fueled the growth of telemedicine.
The problem, however, is that telemedicine makes it easier to conduct fraud on a larger scale because without in-person visits, medical providers can reach many more beneficiaries in a short period of time. Thus, the size and scale of typical health care fraud schemes, such as sending medically unnecessary durable medical equipment, is magnified. This type of fraud has been on the rise since 2016, and, with the relaxed rules for telemedicine reimbursement during the pandemic, there is a serious concern that there will be a sharp increase in telemedicine fraud.
This Article examines the fraudulent practices in the telemedicine industry and the conditions that permit them to flourish. This Article critically assesses the changes to telemedicine coverage and their relationship to fraud. It examines the fraudulent practices through the lens of the fraud triangle to determine why telemedicine fraud occurs. After assessing the cause of telemedicine fraud, this Article argues that there is no need for additional criminal statutes to address telemedicine fraud. As the typical telemedicine scam involves the payment of kickbacks and bulling for medically unnecessary treatment and services, the existing fraud laws such as the Anti-Kickback statute and the False Claims Act are sufficiently capacious to address the criminality involved in these cases. This Article also argues that in lieu of the additional criminal statutes, the Government should focus on additional measures to prevent or detect telemedicine fraud because preventative measures are the best way to safeguard the integrity of federal health care programs.