A conviction for healthcare fraud under 18 U.S.C. Section 1347 can carry sentences that range from no jail time to lifetime imprisonment. This vast range of punishment can leave clients (and healthcare fraud defense lawyers) with tremendous uncertainty regarding the potential outcomes of healthcare fraud case. To complicate matters more, the United States Federal Sentencing Guidelines (specifically Section 2B1.1) allow for a similar range of punishment.
Two recent sentences show the potentially devastating sentences which can be given for healthcare fraud convictions:
1. Last week, a federal court judge handed down a 30-year sentence for a Kansas doctor and a 33-year sentence for his wife after a federal district court jury found the couple guilty of unlawful prescription of drugs, healthcare fraud and money-laundering in a scheme that prosecutors said led to 68 overdose deaths.
2. The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently upheld a 30-year sentence for a Miami doctor convicted of healthcare fraud, even though the Sentencing Guidelines had provided a maximum punishment of 22 years. Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who was a guest judge for the Eleventh Circuit, wrote, " A doctor should be punished more severely than other participants because the doctor is breaching a position of trust and an ethical obligation to put the patient's interest first."
These two cases are definitely at the "high end" of sentences that are handed out for healthcare fraud, but they illustrate the risk that clients encounter when facing healthcare fraud charges. As I indicated in a prior blog post called Healthcare Fraud Investigations to Increase Due to Affordable Care Act, the Government is dedicating more resources to pursue medical providers for healthcare fraud violations, and it appears that they are pursuing maximum possible punishment, both criminally and civilly, for alleged offenders.