Four hundred and twelve people, including 56 doctors, have been arrested in “the largest ever health care fraud enforcement action,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price announced Thursday.
“This is the 8th year of the health care fraud takedown,” Sessions told reporters assembled at the main DOJ building in Washington, DC.
The main focus of the investigation was false billings to medicaid and other government health offerings totaling an estimated $1.3 Billion in fraudulent profits for the criminals. “As a result of this operation, 295 health care providers are now in the process of being suspended or banned from participation in federal health programs,” Sessions explained.
One hundred and twenty of the defendants, including doctors, however, are charged with improperly distributing the opioid painkillers fueling a demographically significant addiction and overdose epidemic across the country. ” This problem is compounded by the fact that our country is in the midst of the deadliest drug crisis in our nation’s history, causing more deaths than you have ever seen in our nation. ” Sessions said.
The attorney general then went on to list the biggest successes in streaming the diversion of illegal pills to the black market:
One group of defendants-including six doctors-are alleged to have operated a scheme in Michigan to prescribe patients with unnecessary opioids, some of which ended up for sale on the street. These defendants allegedly billed Medicare for $164 million in false and fraudulent claims.
One fake rehab facility for drug addicts in Palm Beach is alleged to have recruited addicts with gift cards, visits to strip clubs, and even drugs-enabling the company to bill for over $58 million in false treatments and tests.
Another illegal clinic in Houston allegedly gave out prescriptions for cash. Just one doctor at this clinic allegedly gave out 12,000 opioid prescriptions for over 2 million illegal painkiller doses. These defendants have been charged and they will face justice.
Price explained to reporters the perniciousness of health care fraud in America, an often overlooked sector of the American criminal underground:
Heath care fraud is a crime that deserves special condemnation and requires special cooperation to combat. Not only does it involve stealing billions of taxpayer dollars from American seniors and the medically needy, but it also undermines the American people’s trust in our most important institutions.
Price went on to point out that this crackdown did not solely or even primarily involve healthcare professionals. “You might think operations like this arrest mostly doctors. In some cases, they do, but that is not the case for the majority. It is not even close, ” he said.
Price also praised President Donald Trump for his budget request calling for $70 billion in fraud enforcement funds:
It is our generation’s challenge to keep the promises of these programs and to protect them for our children and grandchildren. This requires relentlessly pursuing anyone involved in defrauding our nation’s health care programs. Someone who instantly understands the importance of caving and strengthening medicare and medicaid for future generations is President Donald Trump.
The Department of Justice set up a website for the release of further documentation pertaining to the operation, which spread across 41 participating federal districts across the country.