By Chris Isidore @CNNMoneyOctober 4, 2012: 3:23 PM ET
Dueling over Paul Ryan's Medicare plan
NEW YORK (CNNMoney)
The Justice Department announced criminal charges Thursday against 91 people who allegedly received about $430 million through wide-ranging Medicare fraud.
Attorney General Eric Holder and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced the charges, which involved doctors, nurses and other medical professionals in seven different cities. The officials allege there was $230 million in home health care fraud, more than $100 million in mental health care fraud and about $49 million in ambulance transportation fraud.
Holder said one doctor is charged with writing 30,000 prescriptions by himself for 2,000 patients, resulting in $100 million in fraud.
"Those charged today not only broke the law -- but also violated their professional obligations and sacred oaths as medical practitioners," said Holder.
The charges came as Medicare and Medicaid have become hotly contested issues in the current presidential election. Republican candidate Mitt Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan have proposed significant changes in the funding of both programs, saying the changes are needed to reduce the growing federal budget deficit.
The Obama administration says the proposed changes would fall too heavily on the poor and elderly who depend on the programs.
While the proposed changes in the program were not discussed at the news conference announcing the charges, Sebelius said "Medicare and Medicaid fraud not only costs taxpayers, it threatens the programs."
Among those arrested by the FBI Thursday was Ernest Gibson, the president of Riverside General Hospital in Houston, along with his son, who is also an employee of the hospital, and four others associated with the hospital.
"We are going after people, whatever their positions, whatever their level," said Holder.