(Zero Hedge) – With the opioid crisis still in full swing (and researchers reporting on Wednesday 70,000 opioid-related deaths that were not added to official statistics over the past 20 years) The Department of Justice announced on Thursday the conclusion of a year-long crackdown on opioid overprescribers that led to the indictment of more than 600 people – including 76 doctors – on health-care fraud charges. All told, the DOJ found that the crimes resulted in more than $2 billion in losses for Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare, as well as private insurers.
Medical professionals were also charged with contributing to the country’s opioid epidemic by unlawfully distributing millions of opioid pills.
“The perpetrators really are despicable and greedy people,” US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said at a press conference.
According to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the investigation represents the biggest health-care fraud case the DOJ has ever undertaken.
This is the most doctors, the most medical personnel, and the most fraud that the Department of Justice has ever taken on in any single law enforcement action. This is the most defendants we’ve ever charged with health care fraud. It’s also the most opioid-related fraud defendants we’ve ever charged in a single enforcement action.
In a speech announcing the takedown, Sessions accused the fraudsters of siphoning off US tax dollars and wasting money that was earmarked for military health care. One doctor was charged with defrauding Medicare of more than $112 million by distributing 2.2 million unnecessary doses of opioids. And 16 of the doctors swept up in the takedown were responsible for circulating more than 20.3 million pills illegally.
These cases are vitally important not only to the victims of these fraudsters, but to the entire country. Many of these fraudsters have stolen our tax dollars—and many have helped flood our streets with drugs.
For example, one doctor allegedly defrauded Medicare of more than $112 million by distributing 2.2 million unnecessary doses of drugs like oxycodone and fentanyl.
In another case, 13 defendants in one fraud scheme allegedly defrauded taxpayers of more than $126 million, much of which was intended to pay for health care for our troops.
These are despicable crimes and we’re not going to tolerate them.
More than 64,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2016, and it’s likely that total deaths climbed in 2017, possibly past the 70,000 mark.
The epidemic caused life expectancy in the US to fall for the second straight year in 2017, a phenomenon that, in the past, has had ominous implications for markets.