Jeff Sessions is going after crooked pharmacists who ran “pill mills” which contributed to the opioid crisis and bilked the American taxpayer.
Yesterday, Federal agents carried out what the DOJ is calling the biggest healthcare sting “in history.” More than 600 people across the country have been charged in this operation. The DOJ says that these 600 slimeballs stole more than $2 billion from taxpayers, and majorly contributed to the opioid crisis, by making false insurance claims and writing prescriptions for unnecessary pills.
Jeff Sessions said that 165 of those charged in this case are doctors, nurses, or other medical personnel who bilked money from public programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and TRICARE, which serves military members and veterans.
In one case, a single doctor fraudulently charged Medicare for $112 million dollars. He did this by handing out more than 2 million unnecessary doses of opioids like oxycodone and fentanyl. Another thirteen defendants are accused of stealing more than $126 million between them, from billing fraud aimed at programs designed to support the troops.
Jeff Sessions called these “despicable crimes,” in his official statement Thursday. “We cannot tolerate them. We will not tolerate them.”
The feds caught onto these crooked pill-pushers by combing through medical data to find patients who were being prescribed an unusually high number of opioids. From there, they tracked the scripts back to the people who had initially written them.
Some of these 600 cases involve doctors who stole money from patients who were seeking addiction treatment. Others involve doctors who recruited networks of desperate patients so that they could fill fake prescriptions and send the bill to the American taxpayer.
Other doctors got kickbacks for illegally handing off sensitive patient info to their partners in crime, who would then use the data to submit their own fraudulent claims.
This sweep follows another one from last year, that took down more than 400 crooked doctors. Sessions was proud to say that “We’re breaking records again,” in terms of the number of schemes uncovered and criminals collared by this massive investigation.
The specifics in the case are as rage-inducing as it is possible to get. Doctors in these cases, many of whom were entrusted with the care of the most vulnerable in our society, used their positions of trust to make a killing at the taxpayers’ expense.
One guy in central California offered prostitutes and fancy dinners to a pair of podiatry specialists, to convince them to issue unnecessary prescriptions. Those three cons managed to submit $250 million in fake claims to federal, state, and private insurers.
One defendant was the owner of Brooklyn-based company that transports disabled patients to therapy. He was charged in a $7 million dollar scheme, wherein he sought kickback payments to take on more patients.
In Florida, employees at a few rehab facilities recruited patients and used fake urine samples to submit more than $100 million in claims.
More than anything, the scope of these arrests ought to show us the sheer degree of waste, and the total lack of transparency and oversight, that plagues our medical system. A lack of competition, combined with a hodgepodge of different private and public insurance providers, makes our system ripe for fraud, waste, and abuse.
That fraud, waste, and abuse contributes quite meaningfully to the rising cost of healthcare in this country. And if people like Bernie Sanders and his deputy Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez get their way, the taxpayer will soon be shouldering a much larger portion of that burden due to plans like “Medicare for all.”