DOJ announces 600 charges in health care fraud crackdown

DOJ announces 600 charges in health care fraud crackdown
© Greg Nash

The Department of Justice on Thursday announced charges against 601 people allegedly responsible for $2 billion in health care fraud, including 65 doctors, nurses and other licensed medical professionals. 

The DOJ described it as the "largest health care fraud enforcement action" in history. 

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Those charged were accused of cheating federal health programs, including Medicare and Medicaid, through false billing practices. 

Of those charged, 162 defendants, including 76 doctors, were charged for their roles in prescribing and distributing opioids and dangerous narcotics. 

“Health care fraud is a betrayal of vulnerable patients, and often it is theft from the taxpayer,” said Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsTrump attack on Sessions may point to his departure Hillicon Valley: Trump's exclusive interview with Hill.TV | Trump, intel officials clash over Russia docs | EU investigating Amazon | Military gets new cyber authority | Flynn sentencing sparks new questions about Mueller probe Sessions in Chicago: If you want more shootings, listen to ACLU, Antifa, Black Lives Matter MORE

“In many cases, doctors, nurses, and pharmacists take advantage of people suffering from drug addiction in order to line their pockets."

The defendants allegedly submitted claims to Medicare, Medicaid, TRICARE and private insurance companies for treatments that were medically unnecessary and often never provided, according to the DOJ.

In "many" cases, the DOJ said, patient recruiters, beneficiaries and other co-conspirators were allegedly paid cash kickbacks in return for supplying beneficiary information to providers, so the providers could submit fraudulent bills to Medicare. 

"The number of medical professionals charged is particularly significant, because virtually every health care fraud scheme requires a corrupt medical professional to be involved in order for Medicare or Medicaid to pay the fraudulent claims," the DOJ said in a statement.