As our masthead states, politicians aren’t the only poody heads around. Last week it came out that over the past seven years, a ring of doctors scammed Medicaid out of a half-billion dollars through false diagnoses, phony treatments, and re-selling medications. Forty-eight people were ultimately charged.
“The defendants worked a fraud on Medicaid, a fraud on pharmaceutical companies, a fraud on legitimate pharmacies, a fraud on patients who unwittingly bought second-hand drugs and ultimately a fraud on the entire health care system,” said Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.
The real money-maker came through falsely billing Medicare for medications that patients didn’t need, then selling those drugs through street-corner pushers. A bottle of pills the doctors might have paid Medicaid $50 for, could sell for $2,000 on the street. So, in addition to the money the doctors got from Medicaid, they made a lot more by selling the black market drugs. But the theft of funds isn’t the worst thing they did.
Court documents detail how participants in the fraud scheme would relabel second-hand prescription bottles so that they could be resold to pharmacies. “Collectors and Aggregators use lighter fluid and other potentially hazardous chemicals to dissolve the adhesive on the patient labels and remove the patient labels and all traces of the adhesive from the bottles” before putting new labels on the bottles.
The drugs also “may have expired” or been stored in conditions that would render them ineffective. “For example, some HIV medications require constant storage in conditions between 25 and 30 degrees Celsius to maintain their efficacy,” according to the complaint.
This is America’s “corporate” healthcare system in action. Doesn’t it make you proud?