Sessions links largest health care fraud crackdown to opioid crisis

PHOTO: U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions holds a news conference to announce a nation-wide health care fraud and opioid enforcement action, at the Justice Department in Washington, June 28, 2018.PlayJonathan Ernst/Reuters
WATCH Trump lays out plan to combat opioid crisis

Attorney General Jeff Sessions Thursday announced the Justice Department's largest-ever crackdown on health care fraud – that he said was linked to over-prescribing of opioids.

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"Much of this fraud is related to our ongoing opioid crisis—which is the deadliest drug epidemic in American history. Some of our most trusted medical professionals look at their patients—vulnerable people suffering from addiction—and they see dollar signs," Sessions said.

Some 600 defendants were charged - including 165 medical professionals and the schemes involved more than $2 billion in defrauding insurance providers. including Medicare, Medicaid, TRICARE, a health insurance program for veterans and their families, as well as private insurance companies. officials said.

Sessions was joined by Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, the Deputy Director of the FBI David Bowdich, and other law enforcement partners at a news conference in Washington.

Officials said defendants would allegedly submit claims to insurance providers, primarily Medicare, for medical services that the patients didn't need and weren't ever done. In many of the cases, kickbacks would be involved for those who shared the benefit information with the healthcare providers.

Then the healthcare providers would submit a bill to Medicare or the insurance provider to collect money for the services that were never performed.

In a release, the DOJ said that the number of medical professionals charged was important 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."

In fiscal 2017, the DOJ's Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force indicted 6,500 defends in opioid-related investigations.