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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release January 13, 1998
                      STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT

Medicare is more than just another program. For millions of Americans it is a lifeline. Maintaining the integrity of that lifeline has long been a top priority of this Administration.

Last September, I announced that the Department of Health and Human Services was declaring the first ever moratorium to stop new home health providers from entering the Medicare program. We took this unprecedented action to give the Administration the opportunity to implement new regulations to create protections to screen out providers who are likely to cheat Medicare.

Today I am announcing that the Department is removing the moratorium because those new tougher regulations are in place to root out fraud and abuse in the home health industry. These regulations will help keep the bad apples -- the providers who commit fraud and abuse -- out of the home health industry. These actions -- combined with other anti-fraud initiatives and other savings initiatives -- have helped slow the growth of home health spending. In fact, the Medicare actuary now reports that the rate of increase in Medicare spending on home health has has slowed to just 5.4 percent from previous rates that exceeded 25 percent.

These efforts to root fraud and abuse out of the home health industry build on my Administration's longstanding efforts to combat fraud and abuse. Since 1993, we have assigned more federal prosecutors and FBI agents to fight health care fraud than ever before. As a result, convictions have gone up a full 240 percent and we have saved some $20 billion in health care claims. The Kassebaum-Kennedy legislation I signed into law created -- for the first time ever -- a stable funding source to fight fraud and abuse. This year's historic Balanced Budget Act, which ensured the life of the Medicare Trust Fund until at least 2010, also gave us an array of new weapons in our fight to keep scam artists and fly-by-night health care providers out of Medicare and Medicaid.

I would like to thank the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice for their efforts to combat fraud and abuse in the home health industry.

We will continue to work to ensure that we do everything possible to combat fraud and abuse in the Medicare and Medicaid programs.