The federal government is expanding its efforts to combat the nation’s opioid crisis and health care fraud with a new regional Medicare Fraud Strike Force operation for the Newark and Philadelphia areas.
The Newark/Philadelphia Medicare Strike Force location is the tenth region-specific operation. All of the Strike Force locations monitor health care activity in a specific region for fraud affecting government health care programs.
The growing crisis of opioid abuse and addiction has not just harmed tens of thousands of individuals and their families across the U.S., it has also taken its toll on the Medicare program, which loses billions of dollars annually to fraudulent opioid painkiller prescriptions and the associated costs.
In a U.S. Department of Justice announcement of the new Newark/Philadelphia Strike Force location, Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski said that every year “tens of billions of dollars in American taxpayer money are lost to fraud, waste, abuse and improper payments.”
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 40 percent of all U.S. opioid overdose deaths involved a prescription opioid.
Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force has charged more than 3,700 defendants who collectively have falsely billed Medicare more than $14 billion.
The human cost is even more devastating. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 72,000 people died of drug overdose deaths in the U.S. last year alone — a record high. More than 30,000 of those deaths were caused by overdoses of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids. In fact, synthetic opioids were associated with the sharpest increase of all drug-overdose deaths in 2017.
“The devastation the opioid epidemic is inflicting on communities across the country and here in the Mid-Atlantic region is staggering — and health care fraud has played a role in feeding that epidemic,” said Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski.
In addition to the Newark/Philadelphia Regional Medicare Fraud Strike Force, there are additional Strike Forces in Baton Rouge and New Orleans, Brooklyn, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, and Tampa. Additionally, a Corporate Strike Force is located in Washington D.C.
Strike Force teams bring together the efforts of the Office of Inspector General, the Department of Justice, Offices of the United States Attorneys, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, local law enforcement, and others.