U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions (C) addresses a news conference at the Department of Justice in Washington D.C. July 13, 2017. A total of 412 people, who were suspected of defrauding 1.3 billion U.S. dollars with false healthcare billings, have been charged, said U.S. Department of Justice Thursday. (Xinhua/Yin Bogu)
WASHINGTON, July 13 (Xinhua) -- A total of 412 people, who were suspected of defrauding 1.3 billion U.S. dollars with false healthcare billings, have been charged, said U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Thursday.
The move by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force involved "412 charged defendants across 41 federal districts, including 115 doctors, nurses and other licensed medical professionals," the DOJ stated.
"Of those charged, over 120 defendants, including doctors, were charged for their roles in prescribing and distributing opioids and other dangerous narcotics," the statement said, adding that the Department of Health and Human Services had suspended 295 healthcare providers.
The 412 charged suspects were accused of billing Medicare and Medicaid for drugs unpurchased, collecting money for false rehabilitation treatment and tests, and selling prescriptions, according to prosecutors.
Nearly one third of the charged were accused of opioid-related crimes.
Some doctors prescribed more controlled substances in a month than entire hospitals gave out in that period, said Andrew McCabe, acting director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
"This event again highlights the enormity of the fraud challenge we face," Attorney General Jeff Sessions said, "too many trusted medical professionals...have made their practices into multimillion dollar criminal enterprises."
The heavy-handed move came at a time when opioid-related drugs were becoming an epidemic in especially rural regions in the United States.
Hydrocodone and Oxycodone, two painkillers, are among the most frequently abused drugs in market. Some patients may become unknowingly addicted to opioid with high dose, while others buy off doctors for large prescriptions and then resell the drugs on the street.