[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/11/19/money.jpg caption="2/3 of recovered funds come from federal health care fraud, Justice Dept. says."]Washington (CNN) - Two of every three dollars federal authorities recovered from frauds against the government come from health care fraud, a top Justice Department official disclosed Thursday.
As the cost of proposed health care programs is front and center for the president and the Senate, Assistant Attorney General Tony West told reporters that $1.6 billion of the $2.4 billion recovered through lawsuits during the past year was the direct result of fraud against federal health care programs.
The $2.4 billion in settlements and court judgments against defendants
accused of fraud is the second largest annual recovery of civil fraud claims in history, West said.
The Justice Department has stepped up enforcement of health care fraud through the use of regional strike forces.
West said of the 1,040 cases currently under investigation, about 600 deal with health care fraud. A much smaller number deal with defense procurement fraud and other claims.
Most health care fraud charges in recent months have focused on people accused of overcharging Medicare for wheelchairs and other medical devices.