The Justice Department on Thursday announced charges against 412 people for $1.3 billion in health-care fraud, the largest such takedown in U.S. history.
Many of the charges were related to doctors unnecessarily prescribing opioids, which then ended up on sale on the street, the department said. One fake rehab facility in Palm Beach, Fla., recruited addicts with gift cards, drugs and trips to casinos and strip clubs and then billed insurance companies for $58 million in false treatments and tests, according to the charges. In Texas, a doctor and clinic owner are accused of accepting $300 cash per patient for unnecessary hydrocodone prescriptions.Â The doctor gaveÂ out 12,000 prescriptions forÂ more thenÂ 2 million illegal painkiller doses, according to prosecutors.
These cases highlight âthe enormity of the fraud challenge we face,â Attorney General Jeff Sessions said at a newsÂ conference. âThe problem is compounded by the fact that our country is in the midst of the deadliest drug crisis in our history.â
OfÂ those charged, 56 were doctors and 120 cases were related to opioids, according to the Justice Department. Some falsely billed Medicare and Medicaid. Arrests have been made across the country from Detroit and Miami to Los Angeles and Chicago, according to prosecutors.
âToo many trusted medical professionals like doctors and nurses and pharmacists have chosen to violate their oaths and put greed ahead of their patients,â SessionsÂ said. âAmazingly, some have made the practices into multimillion dollar criminal enterprises. They seem oblivious to the disastrous consequences of their greed.â
This comes amid a larger debate about how the country should addressÂ the 2Â million people the government estimates are addicted to opioids. The epidemic has swamped hospitals, even as public health authorities urge doctors to cut back on the prescriptions they offer.Â The shortage of treatment for people with opiod-use disorder has even complicated efforts inÂ Congress to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. States struggling with the issue have objected to a proposed roll back of the ACAâs expansion of Medicaid, which is helping fund treatment for many people, for example.
âLast year, an estimated 59,000 Americans died from a drug overdose, many linked to the misuse of prescription drugs. This is, quite simply, an epidemic,â said Chuck Rosenberg, acting administrator of the Drug Enforcement Agency.