The U.S. Justice Department is charging 412 people for taking part in health care frauds and opioid-related crimes that cost taxpayers about $1.3 billion in false billings, it announced Thursday, July 13.
The arrests include 115 doctors, nurses, and other licensed medical professionals and other people charged for their roles in prescribing and distributing opioid painkillers. The department describes it as the largest health care fraud takedown in U.S. history.
Six of the defendants are Michigan doctors accused of operating a scheme to bill the Medicare health care program for $164 million in fraudulent claims by prescribing patients with medically unnecessary opioids.
Another case in Florida involved a fake rehab clinic that recruited addicts with gift cards, visits to strip clubs, and even drugs. The scheme led to $58 million in false treatments and tests, said prosecutors.
The arrests could also have a major impact beyond those charged as HHS has initiated suspension actions against 295 providers, including doctors, nurses, and pharmacists.
“Too many trusted medical professionals like doctors, nurses, and pharmacists have chosen to violate their oaths and put greed ahead of their patients,” said Attorney General Sessions in a statement.
“Amazingly, some have made their practices into multimillion dollar criminal enterprises. They seem oblivious to the disastrous consequences of their greed,” he said.
Session said these actions have enriched these people by feeding addiction and even causing addictions.
He said the arrests were just a beginning, and efforts to find, prosecute, and incarcerate fraudsters and drug dealers would continue.
Tom Price, secretary of health and human services, said the cost of the fraud was perpetrated by health care professionals and jeopardized the health care industry’s ability to provide affordable health care services.
“Health care fraud is not only a criminal act that costs billions of taxpayer dollars—it is an affront to all Americans who rely on our national health care programs for access to critical health care services and a violation of trust,” said Price.
Price said President Donald Trump’s commitment to combating such crime was demonstrated in the 2017 budget request calling for a new $70 million investment in the Health Care Fraud and Abuse Control Program.
“The historic results of this year’s national takedown represent significant progress toward protecting the integrity and sustainability of Medicare and Medicaid, which we will continue to build upon in the years to come,” said Price.