Attorney General Jeff Sessions promised that he would address the massive health care fraud problem in the U.S. Now the Department of Justice (DOJ) is charging over 400 people involved in a big health care fraud scheme, responsible for weaseling about $1.3 billion from the federal government.
Officials said the charges were part of the “largest ever health care fraud enforcement action.”
115 doctors, nurses and other medical professionals were included in the 412 arrested. Sessions said these individuals “have chosen to violate their oaths and put greed ahead of their patients.”
The scheme operated across at least 30 states. A quarter of those charged committed fraud related to opioids. 91 die daily due to opioid overdoses and this drug often acts as a gateway drug to others. This has led to tens of thousands of overdoses on fentanyl and heroin.
“Last year, an estimated 59,000 people died from a drug overdose…opioids play an enormous role in that total number,” said Chuck Rosenberg, the acting administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration. “This is an epidemic.”
56 of the arrested were doctors prescribing massive amounts of drugs.
“Some doctors wrote out more prescriptions for controlled substances than entire hospitals were writing,” said Andrew McCabe, the FBI acting Director.
“One American dies of a drug overdose every 11 minutes and more than 2 million Americans are ensnared in addiction to prescription painkillers,” said Sessions. “We will continue to find, arrest, prosecute, convict and incarcerate fraudsters and drug dealers wherever they are.”
In the investigation, some of the medical professionals were caught distributing prescription narcotics with especially malicious practices.
“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,” said Sessions.
These “addict brokers” we’re earning thousands to recruit new patients and to arrange transportation and insurance coverage for them.
“Narcotics officers have arrested schoolteachers, doctors, nurses and fellow law enforcement personnel,” said McCabe. “Many who succumb to the lure of the opioid high are kids…In some cases, we had addicts packed into standing-room only waiting rooms, waiting for those prescriptions.”
The DOJ also just announced that Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals will be paying $35 million in settlement charges for not notifying the Drug Enforcement Agency about a series of suspicious drug orders dating from 2008 to 2011.
These are the first steps by the DOJ to punish those perpetuating drug abuse in the country.
“Health care fraud is a reprehensible crime,” said Daniel Levinson, Health and Human Services Inspector General. “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.”
“We will use every tool we have to stop criminals from exploiting vulnerable people and stealing our hard-earned tax dollars,” said Sessions.
Author’s note: This proves that Sessions is doing what he said he would. He has already completed the largest arrest of health care fraud and this looks like just the beginning.