Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar announced that 601 individuals are being charged in the largest ever health care fraud enforcement action.
The indictment includes 165 doctors, nurses, and other licensed medical professionals, who allegedly participated in fraud schemes amounting to more than $2 billion in false billings. One hundred and sixty-two of the defendants were charged "for their roles in prescribing and distributing opioids and other dangerous narcotics," according to a press release by the Department of Justice.
"Health care fraud is a betrayal of vulnerable patients, and often it is theft from the taxpayer," said Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He continued,
"In many cases, doctors, nurses, and pharmacists take advantage of people suffering from drug addiction in order to line their pockets. These are despicable crimes.… Today the Department of Justice is announcing the largest health care fraud enforcement action in American history. This is the most fraud, the most defendants, and the most doctors ever charged in a single operation—and we have evidence that our ongoing work has stopped or prevented billions of dollars’ worth of fraud.
"Through investigations across the country," added FBI Deputy Director David L. Bowdich, "we have seen medical professionals putting greed above their patients’ well-being and trusted doctors fanning the flames of the opioid crisis."
The opioid crisis has affected millions of people in the United States. In 2016, 116 people died every day from opioid-related drug overdoses, and over eleven million people misused prescription opioids.
"It takes a special kind of person to prey on the sick and vulnerable as happened in many of these health care fraud schemes," said Deputy Chief of IRS Criminal Investigation Eric Hylton. "Medical professionals and others callously placed individuals and vital healthcare services in harm’s way simply because of greed."