DOJ charges hundreds of physicians and pharmacists with opiate fraud

The federal agencies field formal charges against 412 individuals Thursday.
By Mae Owen | Jul 17, 2017
A series of health-care fraud schemes involving more than 400 doctors, nurses, and pharmacists bilked the federal government out of more than $1 billion, according to the Justice Department and the Department of Health and Human Services. The federal agencies field formal charges against 412 individuals Thursday.
The MEdicare Fraud Task Force filed the charges, which agents said amounted to the "largest ever health care fraud enforcement action" by this group. Around one-fourth of the charges were for opioid-related fraud, including over-prescribing or prescribing for no reason. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said that his agency would pursue those health-care professionals who "maliciously contributed" to the nation's opioid epidemic.
Agents charged the individuals with schemes in which they submitted claims to Medicare and Medicaid for treatments that were either medically unnecessary or which the patients never received. They sometimes used patient recruiters, whom they paid in cash kickbacks to collect beneficiary information that they would use to submit fraudulent claims to the government. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that these recruiters went to extremes to entice patients to sign on for services.
"One fake rehab facility for drug addicts in Palm Beach is alleged to have recruited addicts with gift cards, visits to strip clubs, and even drugs-enabling the company to bill for over $58 million in false treatments and tests," Sessions said.

Patients who suffered from opiate addiction were casualties of many of these schemes, according to FBI acting director Andrew McCabe. He told reporters that "some doctors wrote out more prescriptions for controlled substances than entire hospitals were writing."

Added together, these schemes cost the government around $1.3 billion, according to the agencies.

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