On Thursday, the U.S Justice Department (DOJ) announced the arrests of 601 people on charges of healthcare fraud amounting to over $2 billion in losses from government healthcare programs and insurers. Some cases are reported to be related to the nation’s opioid epidemic.
The takedown is considered to be one of the largest health care fraud busts in U.S history. Of the 601 arrests, 161 doctors, licensed medical professionals, and other suspects are charged with prescribing and distributing addictive opioid painkillers.
Many defendants are charged with schemes to bill the government health care programs Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare and other private insurers for unnecessary treatments and prescriptions. One case involved a pharmacy chain in Texas with fraudulent orders of more than one million hydrocodone and oxycodone pills and selling them for millions of dollars to drug transporters.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement: “Some of our most trusted medical professionals look at their patients — vulnerable people suffering from addiction — and they see dollar signs.”
Secretary of Health and Human Service Alex Azar added in the DOJ statement: “Virtually every health care fraud scheme requires a corrupt medical professional to be involved.”
Following President Trump’s plan to combat opioid abuse, officials are trying their best to boost the national crackdown.
Also Thursday, a report from U.S Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General estimated approximately 460,000 patients covered by Medicare received high amounts of opioids in 2017 and 71,000 were at risk of misuse or overdose.
Sessions considered this health care fraud takedown “[the] largest health care fraud enforcement action in American history” in his statement on Thursday.
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