Medicare pays for woman's penis pumps

Aug. 17, 2010 at 2:50 PM
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MIAMI, Aug. 17 (UPI) -- Two Florida penis pump purveyors allegedly bilked Medicare for phony claims, including for four pumps for a single female patient, officials said.

The Hialeah companies, Charlie RX and Happy Trips, together fraudulently billed Medicare $63,000 for vacuum-erection systems -- at $395 a piece -- that are supposed to help remedy male patients' impotence, the Miami Herald reported Tuesday.

The federal Medicare program paid the two companies $28,600, charges unsealed Monday in Miami federal court showed.

"That we should have caught," said Medicare spokesman Peter Ashkenaz of the payments for the woman's pumps.

Emilio Felipe Lopez, 47, president of Charlie RX, and Orlando Hernandez Estevez, 25, president of Happy Trips, in February were indicted on charges of healthcare fraud. FBI agents last week arrested the two, who authorities said were in hiding.

Lopez and Estevez are accused of stealing Medicare patients' numbers and doctors' identifications to submit close to $2 million in fraudulent bills to Medicare between October and February, the Herald reported.

The newspaper said Medicare pays bills quickly without first verifying them -- enabling Miami-Dade County's reputation as the nation's healthcare-fraud capital.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius last month said Medicare would end the "pay and chase" system, whereby federal law enforcement must rectify Medicare's billing mistakes after false claims are already paid.

Last year, medical-equipment businesses nationwide were paid $2.4 million after billing Medicare for penis pumps, with 90 percent of the payments made to Florida companies, the Herald said.

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