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Scott / Flickr Creative Commons

A newly unsealed lawsuit alleges UnitedHealth Group "defrauded the United States of hundreds of millions — and likely billions — of dollars" by knowingly submitting false and inflated charges to Medicare, multiple media outlets have reported.

The stocks of UnitedHealth and other insurers that sell Medicare Advantage plans were hammered Friday on the news, and some financial analysts believe the lawsuit will likely "result in additional scrutiny on Medicare Advantage," the private alternative to traditional Medicare coverage. A UnitedHealth spokesman said the company will fight the lawsuit "vigorously," saying it's based on a misinterpretation of Medicare rules.

The details: The whistleblower lawsuit, which the Justice Department joined in part, accuses UnitedHealth, its Optum subsidiary and multiple other insurers of doctoring medical claims through a mechanism called risk adjustment, which essentially allows companies to receive more federal money if they have sicker members. Risk adjustment exists to give insurers incentives to cover people who have costly medical conditions, but the suit alleges UnitedHealth and others knowingly fudged risk scores to get more money.

Why this matters: The Justice Department only intervenes in cases when it believes there was significant wrongdoing. Its action, even by only intervening on some of the claims, makes this serious. Allegations of inflated Medicare Advantage coding and faulty diagnoses most notably came to light in an investigative series from the Center for Public Integrity. But UnitedHealth denies the charges, and the company also sued the feds last year to clear up what it viewed as unclear Medicare risk-coding policies.

Go deeper

Updated 39 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Giuliani associate Lev Parnas convicted of campaign finance crimes

Lev Parnas, a former associate of then-President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Florida businessman Lev Parnas was convicted Friday on charges of conspiracy to make foreign contributions to political campaigns, according to multiple outlets.

Why it matters: Prosecutors said Parnas, then an associate of former President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, funneled over $150,000 from a Russian businessman into U.S. campaigns as part of an effort to land licenses in the U.S.'s legal cannabis industry.

Supreme Court agrees to hear challenges to Texas abortion law

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear two cases challenging Texas' abortion law, which bans the procedure as soon as six weeks into pregnancy, but left the law in place in the meantime.

Why it matters: The court is moving extraordinarily fast on the Texas cases, compressing into just a few days a process that normally takes months. And that schedule means the court will take up Texas' ban a month before it hears another major abortion case — a challenge to Mississippi's own 2018 ban on abortions after 15 weeks.

Officials warn 5 key tech sectors will determine whether China overtakes U.S.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

U.S. intelligence officials responsible for protecting advanced technologies have narrowed their focus to five key sectors: artificial intelligence, quantum computing, biotechnology, semiconductors and autonomous systems.

Why it matters: China and Russia are employing a variety of legal and illegal methods to undermine and overtake U.S. dominance in these critical industries, officials warned in a new paper. Their success will determine "whether America remains the world’s leading superpower or is eclipsed by strategic competitors."