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Although nonviolent, health-care fraud is still a felony offense

Like every other state, Louisiana classifies crimes as misdemeanors or felonies, depending on the gravity of an act and the injury to its victims. Misdemeanor offenses are comparatively minor. Felonies, however, are considered to be severe, and the consequences for a conviction typically include imprisonment. Even felonies, though, are subdivided into violent and nonviolent offenses. Violent felony offenses are crimes that physically harm or kill victims. Nonviolent offenses do not physically harm victims, but they still create injury of some sort, usually financial. Certain types of fraud, such as those involving the public health-care system, are nonviolent felonies.

Health-care fraud typically targets insurance companies and other government programs such as the federal Medicare program and state Medicaid programs. A person can be charged with felony fraud, for example, by tempting beneficiaries to provide sensitive information that is then used to commit other acts of fraud. Patient information is often obtained during free medical screenings and through conspiring with health-care workers. Office staff, as well as physicians and nurses, have access to patients' medical information and information such as Social Security numbers and insurance policy numbers that are used for reimbursements. It is not uncommon for health-care providers to bill for services that were never rendered or to overbill. The consequences can be severe for those caught. Physicians, for example, can go to prison and lose their right to practice medicine.

Anyone who faces felony charges, whether violent or nonviolent, should take the consequences seriously. Beyond possible prison time and fines, convicts often have trouble getting jobs after convictions. All defendants have the right to a strong criminal defense and to contest all charges filed against them by prosecutors.

Individuals can fight felony charges by themselves or seek legal guidance from criminal defense attorneys who know how the judicial system works.

Source: Fbi.gov, "Health care fraud overview," Accessed on Feb. 2, 2015Post Type: topical

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