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U.S. charges 89 people with healthcare fraud

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder refers to his notes during testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington,
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder refers to his notes during testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington,

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said on Tuesday the Department of Justice had charged 89 defendants in eight cities with healthcare fraud, and warned that budget cuts could limit future efforts to crack down on fraudulent claims.

The government's sixth national crackdown on healthcare fraud since 2010 involved $223 million in fraudulent claims in jurisdictions including Miami, Detroit, Los Angeles and Brooklyn, New York, the Justice Department said.

But Holder said efforts to expand the battle against fraud is being affected by automatic across-the-board federal budget cuts, known as sequestration, which have stripped $1.6 billion in funding from the Justice Department for the fiscal year ending September 30.

"Unless Congress adopts a balanced deficit reduction plan and stops the reductions currently slated for 2014, I fear our capacity to protect the American people from healthcare fraud ... will be further reduced," Holder said.

Since 2007, officials say the government's Medicare Fraud Strike Force has charged more than 1,500 defendants who have falsely billed the Medicare program for the elderly and disabled for $5 billion.

(Reporting By Susan Heavey and David Morgan; Editing by Sandra Maler and John Wallace)

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