The U.S. Department of Justice has charged 412 health care professionals with fraud and other opioid-related scams that allegedly cost the government up to $1.3 billion and allowed the opioid crisis to continue.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the investigations incriminated medical practitioners across 41 federal districts for their role in prescribing and distributing dangerous narcotics, as well as other treatments, even when unnecessary. They also allegedly schemed to falsely bill the federal government under Medicaid, Medicare, and Tricare.
"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," Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said.
The announcement comes as federal agencies continue to take action against the worsening opioid crisis in the United States.
Charges Against Involved Individuals
According to the official report, 120 people out of the 412 were accused of opioid-related crimes, including a group of six doctors in Michigan who prescribed patients with unneeded opioid medications that ended up circulating in the streets and worsening the already serious opioid crisis.
Whether the involved doctors overprescribed opioids unknowingly or on purpose is up for debate since patients also have a responsibility to keep prescription medication away from their kids or someone else. However, it is still ultimately up to the doctor to determine whether a patient truly needs a certain medication by thoroughly checking patient records and performing the necessary tests.
There were also reports of illegal "health" institutions that gave away medications for cash, and fake rehabilitation centers that recruited addicts and billed the federal government for treatments that were never provided.
Among them are Real Life Recovery Delray LLC and Halfway There Florida LLC, also called "A Safe Place," which have both been under investigation since 2014. Both institutions are owned by Eric Snyder who allegedly defrauded insurance companies more than $58 million for treatments that were never provided to his clients.
Not An End To The Opioid Crisis
After the huge operation, 295 health care providers are in the process of being either suspended or banned from federal health care programs.
"Too many trusted medical professionals like doctors, nurses, and pharmacists have chosen to violate their oaths ... They seem oblivious to the disastrous consequences of their greed. Their actions not only enrich themselves ... but also feed addictions and cause addictions to start," Attorney General Jeff Sessions expressed during his speech.
Sessions also acknowledged that the large Strike Force operation still has a long way to go before seeing an end to the opioid crisis, but that it will continue to take aggressive actions against corrupt medical practitioners who have chosen greed over the welfare of their patients.
"We are sending a clear message to criminals across the country: we will find you. We will bring you to justice. And, you will pay a very high price for what you have done," he assured.
While the aggressive action seems impressive, some are concerned that the Justice Department's action could force addicts into trying more dangerous drugs, ultimately causing more deaths from drug overdose. Experts believe that it would be more helpful if a good treatment program could be made available for those suffering from addiction; however, they doubt that the crisis could actually be solved if the Republican health care bill replaces the Obamacare.