FBI Lecturer Talks Health Fraud with TAMIU Senior Nursing Students
Posted: 11/7/13

FBI Lecturer Talks Health Care
Fraud with TAMIU Nursing Seniors

Calling them a vital resource in building awareness of health care fraud, a guest Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) lecturer met with Texas A&M International University (TAMIU) senior nursing students last week.

Supervisory Special Agent L. Tuleta Copeland told students that health care fraud (HCF) is one of the FBI’s biggest priorities, with over 1200 agents working in the arena.

SSA L. Tuleta Copeland

“The U.S. lost over $80 billion last year to HCF, monies that are of course much better distributed to those who need health care,” Copeland explained, “HCF often harms patients, frequently involves theft of federal funds, usually occurs along with other crimes such as identity theft, trafficking of narcotics, contributes to the rise health care costs and affects the medical community’s reputation.”

She reminded the students that they are part of the solution.

“As soon to be full members of the medical community, you will share in the responsibility of helping to reduce HCF.  We’re looking to you to help us to identify abuse and fraud as nursing professionals,” she explained.

Copeland, one of 22 agents on a public corruption and HCF-focused team, said the majority of Laredo’s approximately 2600 pending HCF cases can be grouped into two categories.

“The majority of offenses are related to fraudulent ambulance calls and home health care fraud.  In other areas of the state and nation we see pharmaceutical fraud, upscaling and upbilling schemes, durable medical equipment (wheelchairs and mobility equipment) billing fraud, kickback schemes or illegally paid referrals to healthcare agencies and hospitals and hospice fraud,” she noted.

Copeland said one of the state’s most HCF-plagued areas is the Rio Grande Valley, and noted specific cases and the results of successful prosecution there.

She admitted that proving HCF can be difficult and time-consuming, but those convicted usually serve federal time, pay restitution and routinely have their assets seized.  Loss of medical licenses and attorney fees also figure into the consequences of federal crime conviction.

Copeland’s appearance was coordinated by clinical assistant professor of Nursing Rose Saldivar, who called Copeland’s presentation essential.

“It’s essential for all health care providers to be knowledgeable about the potential for abuse and fraud within the healthcare system.  In order for our students to have the most current information in regards to this area of healthcare, it is important to have experts such as Ms. Copeland provide our student with insight and awareness.”

 Dr. Glenda Walker, dean of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences’ Dr. F.M. Canseco School of Nursing, said Copeland’s presentation helped prepare the senior nurses for real-world challenges.

“Our graduates are really on the front line and their profession may expose them to HCF.  All nurses are advocates for strong healthcare and anything that diminishes the strength of the healthcare system should be addressed by nursing. We bring in lecturers like Ms. Copeland to help make sure that they are aware of real world challenges out there,”  Dr. Walker said.

Agent Copeland was impressed with the students and their engaging questions and said she couldn’t resist the opportunity to note that the FBI also hires nurses, encouraging them to consider the FBI among their career options.

TAMIU’s College of Nursing offers a BSN degree, a completely online RN to BSN completion degree, a Master of Science in Nursing and a Master of Science in Nursing Administration. 

All programs are fully accredited by the Texas Board of Nurse Examiners and the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission. 

For more on TAMIU Nursing Programs, contact the Dean’s Office at 956.326.2574, email Glenda.walker@tamiu.edu or visit offices in Dr. F. M. Canseco Hall, suite 304.

Journalists who need additional information or help with media requests and interviews should contact the Office of Public Relations, Marketing and Information Services at prmis@tamiu.edu