HHS stresses commitment to telemedicine fraud prevention  

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The HHS Office of Inspector General is conducting oversight analysis to assess telehealth services during the COVID-19 public health emergency, including concerns about fraud schemes tied to virtual care. 

In a Feb. 26 statement, HHS-OIG Principal Deputy Inspector General Christi Grimm addressed the agency's investigations into telehealth practices during the pandemic. 

"OIG is conducting significant oversight work assessing telehealth services during the public health emergency," she wrote. "Once complete, these reviews will provide objective findings and recommendations that can further inform policymakers and other stakeholders considering what telehealth flexibilities should be permanent." 

Telehealth expansion has been viewed positively by most and has given opportunities to increase access to services and decrease burdens for patients and providers, Ms. Grimm wrote. Part of the agency's reviews have focused on concerns related to "telefraud" schemes, which Ms. Grimm said it is important to distinguish from telehealth fraud. 

Over the past few years, OIG has led several investigations of fraud schemes that wrongfully used "the reach of telemarketing schemes in combination with unscrupulous doctors conducting sham remote visits to increase the size and scale of the perpetrator's criminal operations," she wrote. "In many cases, the criminals did not bill for the sham telehealth visit. Instead, the perpetrators billed fraudulently for other items or services, like durable medical equipment or genetic tests." 

OIG will continue to pursue "telefraud" schemes and watch how the scams may relate to telehealth, Ms. Grimm wrote, adding that the agency's first work products on its telehealth reviews are expected to be ready for publication later this year. 

 

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