By Arman Gevorkyan
According to several local Florida newspapers, on Thursday morning 160 FBI agents raided two Miami-based American Therapeutic Corporation clinics, (the US’s largest chain of mental health clinics). Owners and senior managers were indicted for their alleged participation in a fraud scheme involving approximately $200 million in Medicare billing.
Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer said; “Some of the patients were not even aware of where they were or what was going on around them,” The patients could not feed themselves or control their own bodily waste.
The scope of South Florida’s $200 million case surpassed that of so-called “Armenian mafia” fraud a week before which allegedly tried to cheat the federal program out of $163 million. U.S. authorities branded that case as “the largest Medicare fraud scheme ever perpetrated by a single criminal enterprise”. Media outlets in US and around the world announced the story using catchy headlines.
Meanwhile, as it turns out, American Therapeutic is not only Medicare’s highest biller of mental health services in the country, but is also known for its active lobbying in Washington, D.C. and for having ties to congressmen and other politicians.
Despite the fact that the Florida medical fraud case was much higher in numbers and was involved in obvious patient neglect and mistreatment, the media response was not as vigorous as for the alleged “Armenian mafia” fraud. Hardly any mainstream newspapers picked it up.
According to Lou Saccoccio, executive director of the National Health Care Anti-Fraud Association, Medicare and Medicaid Services lose an estimated $65 billion to criminals annually.
This makes the alleged “Armenian mafia’s medical fraud” case look like a drop in the ocean.
So why the unjustified show around one of the smallest ethnic minorities in the US, with an emphasis on collocations like “Armenian mafia”, “Armenian criminals”, “Armenian fraud”, “Armenian crime boss”?
The endeavor to divert the blame for a decades old problem of the American health care system to an ethnic minority feels either xenophobic or pursues some hidden political agenda…