“Health care fraud is a reprehensible crime,” said Health and Human Services Inspector General Daniel Levinson. “It not only represents a theft from taxpayers who fund these vital programs, but impacts the millions of Americans who rely on Medicare and Medicaid.”
In a landmark takedown by the Department of Justice, the Department of Health and Human Services, and federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has filed charges against 412 individuals in connection with Medicare fraud, 120 of which were in connection with the opioid epidemic that is currently plaguing our country. A Washington Post article today says that of the 120 charged in connection with opioid-related Medicare fraud, 115 of those were medical professionals, 56 of which were physicians. The charges indicate that many of the physicians wrote false scripts and participated in other schemes that aimed to sell drugs to known addicts. The amount fraudulently billed to Medicare is said to total $1.3 billion.
In a statement today, Sessions says that one American dies every 11 minutes from a drug overdose and that we are currently seeing more drug-related deaths than we ever have in U.S. history.
Sessions also strongly spoke out against medical professionals who have turned to the dark side, saying “Too many trusted medical professionals like doctors and nurses and pharmacists have chosen to violate their oaths and put greed ahead of their patients…their actions not only enrich themselves, often at the expense of the taxpayer, but also feed addictions and cause addictions to begin.”
The Post describes several specific schemes, including one in which 6 Michigan physicians knowingly prescribed high volumes of opioids that were later sold on the street. The total amount those 6 doctors are responsible for billing Medicare? $164 million.
False Charges to Medicare Contributing to Need for Program Cuts The involvement of those in the medical community is indeed a sad revelation, but is particularly significant now as our country struggles to come up with a way to get a handle on the skyrocketing cost of healthcare in this country. In addition to fraudulently piling on nearly $1.5 billion dollars to the Medicare/Medicaid program, pushing opioids has resulted in many addicts seeking treatment in programs that are currently funded by Medicaid. With Medicaid and Medicare on the chopping block in the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 (the Republican answer to repealing and replacing Obamacare), drug rehabilitation funding will likely face a large cut, especially when put up against taking funding from other services, such as those aimed at children.
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