Efforts by the federal government to eliminate Medicare fraud have produced $2.5 billion for the program’s trust fund in fiscal year 2009, a 29-percent increase from the previous year, according to a report released by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Attorney General Eric Holder. The report also found that $441 million was returned to the Medicaid program because of anti-fraud efforts, an increase of 28 percent over the 2008 amount.

Holder and Sebelius said that the new health reform law could bolster future efforts to address fraud within Medicare. The overhaul allocates $600 million over 10 years for such efforts. The overhaul stipulates that health care providers could be subject to fingerprinting, site visits and criminal background checks before they are permitted to bill Medicare and Medicaid. The new reform law also allows HHS to withhold payments to Medicare or Medicaid providers if an investigation is pending and lengthen prison sentences for U.S. residents convicted of health care fraud.