A Cuban man charged with more than $4 million in health insurance fraud tried to flee the United States to Cuba on a jet ski, according to a report released Tuesday.
Ernesto Cruz Graveran of Hialeah, Florida was sentenced by a federal judge in Miami to be held pending trial on June 13, according to the Associated Press. The 54-year-old was apprehended last week by US Coast Guard and US Customs and Border Protection officers.
Between February and April of this year, Cruz Graveran’s company, Xiko Enterprises Inc., submitted approximately $4.2 million in fraudulent health care claims to Medicare. These were medical supplies that Medicare beneficiaries never requested and Xiko never provided, according to a criminal complaint cited in the report.
Cruz Graveran’s plan to go to Havana was discovered by the investigators. He was approached several days before his flight and cooperated with criminal investigators in an interview, AP said.
His passport was taken by the authorities, only for him to attempt to flee the United States on a jet ski. Cruz Graveran was apprehended in the company of a person known to law enforcement as a migrant smuggler.
The jet ski on which the two men rode was equipped with a special fuel cell designed for long journeys. There was also extra food and bottled water on board, according to the report.
Newsweek contacted the Coast Guard for comment.
The case comes at a time when many Americans are struggling with health care debt. In April, President Joe Biden proposed a series of measures to address medical debt.
The Biden administration’s proposals will reduce the role medical debt plays in determining whether people can access credit, making it easier for people with medical debt to acquire home or business loans. They will also facilitate the cancellation of medical debt for more than half a million low-income veterans.
The proposals propose to inform consumers of their rights and to hold medical providers and debt collectors accountable for harmful practices. The United States is unique among developed countries in its levels of personal medical debt.
The high death rate in the United States from the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the poor health conditions of many Americans, leaving them particularly vulnerable to the virus. As political leaders have reiterated their commitment to tackling the high cost of healthcare, social media is teeming with stories of unaffordable medical bills.
One in three American adults has medical debt, and medical debt is the leading cause of personal bankruptcy in the country. This is despite the fact that 90% of the US population has some form of medical insurance, according to a March report from the Peterson-KFF Health System Tracker.
The US Census Bureau’s 2019 survey of income and program participation found that Americans owe at least $195 billion in medical debt.
While other wealthy countries are more likely to have universal health care that covers them if they get sick, some 26 million Americans are still uninsured. Millions more have insurance plans with high deductibles and co-payments for preventive care.