Thursday, 20 September, 2018

US charges hundreds in healthcare fraud, opioid crackdown

AG Sessions Announces 601 Charged Amid Largest Opioid Crackdown Justice Dept arrests 601 people, including doctors, for health care fraud and opioid-related crimes
Anna Jefferson | 01 July, 2018, 09:28

The US Justice Department on Thursday announced charges against 601 people including doctors and nurses for taking part in healthcare fraud and opioid-related crimes that resulted in more than US$2 billion in losses.

The fraud not only resulted in more than 2 billion US dollars in losses, but also was blamed in many cases for deepening the opioid crisis across the United States, said the department.

Since last July, HHS has barred 2,700 people from participating in federal healthcare programs, including 587 providers charged with opioid diversion and abuse.

Over 42,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses in 2016, data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed.

While the Justice Department has been conducting investigations into some opioid manufacturers like OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma LP, the cases stemming from the sweep did not focus on wrongdoing by major corporations. Steiner, who operated a mental health and opioid addiction practice, prescribed medically unnecessary drugs and unlawfully distributed opiates, Coleman said.

The cases included charges in Texas against a pharmacy chain owner and two other people accused of using fraudulent prescriptions to fill bulk orders for over 1 million hydrocodone and oxycodone pills that were sold to drug couriers. They include 76 doctors, 23 pharmacists, 19 nurses, and other medical workers.

Those claims were then submitted to organizations such as Medicaid and Medicare for services that were never provided.

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This announcement appears to reflect both an ongoing commitment by the DOJ to prosecute health care fraud and opioid abuse cases, and that the emphasis by HHS on administratively excluding providers has become a part of the enforcement landscape over the past year.

"Health care fraud is theft and it's drug dealing", Coleman said. The charges also involved unnecessary prescription drugs and compounded medications.

The charged podiatrists, Domenic Signorelli, 51, of Irvine, and Robert Joseph, 51, of Huntington Beach, along with several other unnamed co-conspirator doctors, allegedly received kickbacks for "writing" the prescriptions.

The takedown is considered to be one of the largest health care fraud busts in U.S history.

Charges against Dr. Bingston Crosby, a chiropractor, include health care fraud, money laundering and mail fraud, authorities said. "Health care fraud costs the country tens of billions of dollars a year, and the FBI seeks to identify and pursue investigations against the most egregious offenders involved in health care fraud through investigative partnerships with other federal agencies".

A complaint, information, or indictment is merely an allegation, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

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