Opioids drive healthcare fraud crackdown

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HHS

Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Thursday announced what officials are calling the largest health care fraud enforcement action in Justice Department history.

Last year, an estimated 59,000 people in the US died from drug overdoses, many of them linked to opioid abuse, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The opioid epidemic was a major focus of the arrests and charges.

The defendants include six doctors in MI accused of operating a scheme to prescribe patients with unnecessary opioids and of billing the Medicare healthcare program for $164 million in fraudulent claims.

"The court gave DOJ thirty days to produce Attorney General Sessions's security clearance form, DOJ has already confirmed its contents to the press and Sessions has testified about it to Congress, so there is no good reason to withhold this document from the public", Austin Evers, the executive director of American Oversight, said in a statement to NPR.

"We have never seen this kind of deaths from prescription drugs", Sessions said.

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

Sessions also announced that nearly 300 providers would be suspended or banned from participating in federal health care programs.

"Preventing addiction is the most important thing we can do", Sessions told reporters, advocating a return to programs that had good results in the 1980s and 1990s, and that treatment seems the least effective option. "To opioid addicts, these prescriptions escalate their dependence on drugs". The government bears some responsibility for the opioid crisis, Price also said, because Washington's pain guidelines 20 years ago incentivized physicians to overprescribe opioids. "Don't get started, and you won't get addicted".

Over 300 agents from the HHS Office of the Inspector General were involved in the crackdown, along with 30 state Medicare fraud units and 370 Federal Bureau of Investigation agents.

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