The U.S. government spent $30 billion last month in stimulus payments last month to most healthcare providers that billed Medicare last year, part of the $2.3 trillion CARES Act passed by Congress to address the economic damage of the coronavirus pandemic.
"That speed resulted in taxpayers' money flowing to some companies and people facing civil or criminal fraud investigations,". Reuters reports, citing "defense lawyers and others representing more than a dozen firms and people facing such inquiries."
"I have an enormous amount of frustration with the way the Trump administration is distributing these dollars, and examples like these magnify the consequences of the White House's efforts to limit transparency and stonewall oversight," Senate Finance Committee ranking member Senator Ron Wyden told Reuters.
Reuters interviewed six defense lawyers and others representing more than a dozen healthcare providers facing civil or criminal inquiries who received the money, including a pain medicine doctor who recently settled a civil false claims case, and an operator of an assisted living facility who is planning to plead guilty to healthcare fraud.
"The left hand does not know what the right hand is doing," said Joel Hirschhorn, an attorney who represents the pain medicine doctor and the operator of the assisted living facility.
The lawyers who spoke to Reuters declined to identify their specific clients, citing confidentiality rules.
The surprise deposit of funds has led attorneys to scramble to warn clients to be ready to return the money.
"There is no such thing as a windfall from the government," said Sam J. Louis, a former prosecutor who is now a partner with the law firm Holland & Knight, whose law firm issued an alert to clients warning them of the potential of legal liability in taking the funds.