WASHINGTON (Reuters) – More than 400 people, including doctors
and nurses, have been charged with defrauding Medicare and other
federal healthcare programs of $1.3 billion, with many accused of
illegally distributing opioids and other narcotics, the Justice
Department said on Thursday.

A total of 412 people, including almost 115 doctors, nurses and
other medical professionals, have been charged in the sweeping
enforcement action, the biggest ever by the multi-agency Medicare
Strike Force, the Justice Department said in a statement.

More than 120 people were accused of illegally prescribing and
distributing opioids and other dangerous narcotics, charges that
come as about 91 Americans die daily from opioid-related
overdoses.

“Too many trusted medical professionals like doctors, nurses and
pharmacists have chosen to violate their oaths and put greed
ahead of their patients,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in
the statement. ÔÇťAmazingly, some have made their practices into
multi-million-dollar criminal enterprises.”

Those charged participated in schemes that billed Medicaid,
Medicare and TRICARE – which serves military personnel, veterans
and their families – for unneeded drugs and treatments that were
often never provided, the Justice Department said. Medicaid and
Medicare provide healthcare for the poor and elderly.

In many cases, healthcare providers paid cash kickbacks to
patients and others in exchange for medical data that would allow
them to file fraudulent bills to Medicare, the Justice Department
said.

In addition to the hundreds charged, the Department of Health and
Human Services has launched suspension procedures against almost
300 medical service providers, including doctors, nurses and
pharmacists, the Justice Department said.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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