US prosecutors charge 412 in health fraud, opioid schemes worth $1.3 billion

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, right, with Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, speaks about opioid addiction during a news conference, Washington, D.C., July 13, 2017 | Associated Press photo by Jacquelyn Martin, St. George News

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA (AP) — U.S. prosecutors announced Thursday that they have charged more than 400 people – including a nurse practitioner in Utah – with taking part in health care fraud and opioid scams that totaled $1.3 billion in false billing.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions called the collective action the “largest health care fraud takedown operation in American history” and said it indicates that some doctors, nurses and pharmacists “have chosen to violate their oaths and put greed ahead of their patients.”

In Utah, a nurse practitioner was charged in connection with fraudulently obtaining a controlled substance, tampering with a consumer product and infecting over seven individuals with Hepatitis C, according to a press release from the Justice Department.

Others charged include six Michigan doctors accused of a scheme to prescribe unnecessary opioids. Additionally, a Florida rehab facility is alleged to have recruited addicts with gift cards and visits to strip clubs, leading to $58 million in false treatments and tests.

Officials said those charged in the schemes include more than 120 people involved in prescribing and distributing narcotics.

They seem oblivious to the disastrous consequences of their greed,” Sessions said in prepared remarks. “Their actions not only enrich themselves, often at the expense of taxpayers, but also feed addictions and cause addictions to start.”

Sessions said in his remarks that nearly 300 health care providers are being suspended or banned from participating in federal health care programs.

The Justice Department said the people charged were illegally billing Medicare, Medicaid and the health insurance program that serves members of the armed forces, retired service members and their families.

The allegations include claims that those charged billed the programs for unnecessary drugs that were never purchased or never given to the patients.

Written by SADIE GURMAN, Associated Press.

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Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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  • Brian July 13, 2017 at 11:13 am

    This is great news. It makes zero sense in this day and age with all of our data and algorithms that we don’t see WAY more of this, including for things as simple as email and telemarketing fraud.

    I say throw the book at the predatory suckers.

  • Caveat_Emptor July 13, 2017 at 4:23 pm

    It was a few years ago when 60 Minutes featured a segment on Medicare Fraud in Florida, and how easy it was to steal from the government funded healthcare system. The Congressional requirement to pay first, then review the paperwork later, is the fundamental hole. These literal “fly by night” scammers set up shop, bill Medicare, get their reimbursement, then leave.

    I don’t mean to minimize this accomplishment, but let’s face it, this is small dollars in the huge dollar value of fraud committed on an annual basis…..

  • old school July 13, 2017 at 5:56 pm

    Greed ahead of the patients is exactly what’s going on in this country, all the health care practitioners want these that “money” and they’ll leverage you’re pain and suffering to get it.

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