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By Fred Schulte, Center for Public Integrity

Department of Health and Human Services headquarters in Wshington Photo: Jasmine Norwood/Center for Public Integrity

Department of Health and Human Services headquarters in Wshington Photo: Jasmine Norwood/Center for Public Integrity

Citing massive budget and staff cuts, federal officials are set to scale back or drop a host of investigations into Medicare and Medicaid fraud and abuse — even though cracking down on government waste and cutting health care costs have been top priorities for the Obama administration.

The Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General is set to lose a total of 400 staffers that are deployed nationwide as a primary defense against health care fraud and abuse. Though agency officials have yet to decide which investigations will be shelved as staff dwindles, the existing staff is already stretched so thin that the agency has failed to act on 1,200 complaints over the past year alleging wrongdoing — and expects that number to rise.