In what federal officials Thursday called the “largest ever health care fraud enforcement action” by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, 412 individuals, including 115 doctors, nurses and other licensed medical professionals, were arrested in a nationwide operation that involved more than 1,000 law enforcement agents in at least 30 states.
- “One American dies of a drug overdose every 11 minutes and more than 2 million Americans are ensnared in addiction to prescription painkillers,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said at a news conference. “We will continue to find, arrest, prosecute, convict and incarcerate fraudsters and drug dealers wherever they are.”
Cenk Uygur and John Iadarola, hosts of The Young Turks, discuss the largest takedown of health care fraud against over 412 individuals responsible for $1.3 Billion in fraud losses.
The Young Turks and AG Sessions on the takedown of health care fraud.
- The charges announced today aggressively target schemes billing Medicare, Medicaid, and TRICARE (a health insurance program for members and veterans of the armed forces and their families) for medically unnecessary prescription drugs and compounded medications that often were never even purchased and/or distributed to beneficiaries.
- The charges also involve individuals contributing to the opioid epidemic, with a particular focus on medical professionals involved in the unlawful distribution of opioids and other prescription narcotics, a particular focus for the Department. According to the CDC, approximately 91 Americans die every day of an opioid-related overdose.
- “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. “Amazingly, some have made their practices into multimillion dollar criminal enterprises. They seem oblivious to the disastrous consequences of their greed.
- Their actions not only enrich themselves often at the expense of taxpayers but also feed addictions and cause addictions to start. The consequences are real: emergency rooms, jail cells, futures lost, and graveyards. While today is a historic day, the Department’s work is not finished. In fact, it is just beginning. We will continue to find, arrest, prosecute, convict, and incarcerate fraudsters and drug dealers wherever they are.”
- “Healthcare 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 healthcare programs for access to critical healthcare services and a violation of trust,” said Secretary Price. “The United States is home to the world’s best medical professionals, but their ability to provide affordable, high-quality care to their patients is jeopardized every time a criminal commits health care fraud.
- That is why this Administration is committed to bringing these criminals to justice, as President Trump demonstrated in his 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.”
According to court documents, the defendants allegedly participated in schemes to submit claims to Medicare, Medicaid, and TRICARE for treatments that were medically unnecessary and often never provided. In many cases, patient recruiters, beneficiaries, and other co-conspirators were allegedly paid cash kickbacks in return for supplying beneficiary information to providers, so that the providers could then submit fraudulent bills to Medicare for services that were medically unnecessary or never performed.
The number of medical professionals charged is particularly significant because virtually every health care fraud scheme requires a corrupt medical professional to be involved for Medicare or Medicaid to pay the fraudulent claims. Aggressively pursuing corrupt medical professionals not only has a deterrent effect on other medical professionals but also ensures that their licenses can no longer be used to bilk the system.