Today, the Department of Justice announced that it has filed health care fraud charges against 601 people, including 165 doctors and medical professionals. They are being charged them with an array of crimes in additional to health care fraud charges, including illegally prescribing drugs. The arrests were the result of a nationally coordinated health care fraud enforcement operation that stretched across thirty states.
Most of the cases brought against these doctors and professionals allege various health care fraud charges by submitting fraudulent invoices to Medicare, Medicaid, and other federal healthcare programs. (To learn more about what the government has to prove to convict a doctor or other health care professional in a health care fraud case, watch my video.)
Prosecutors in these cases are arguing that the doctors billed those programs for treatments that were “medically unnecessary” or not actually provided. Of course, deciding what is “medically unnecessary” is usually up to the doctor’s judgment. Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop the federal government from charging them anyway.
Some of the other charges in these cases have been brought against doctors and healthcare clinic owners for “unlawfully prescribing” medications. Often referred to as “pill mills” by the government, the government will sometimes accuse a doctor of illegally distributing controlled substances by prescribing them to people who don’t have a medical need for them, such as addicts and drug dealers. Of course, most doctors are genuinely trying to treat their patients, but they rely on their patients to tell them what’s wrong. As you might guess, it doesn’t take much for the government to wrongfully accuse doctors of prescribing drugs illegally.
Given the nature of these charges, there is a high potential for government abuse. While we can all agree the government should be involved in policing health care fraud and illegal drug distribution, aggressive law enforcement operations like this one inevitably end up hurting innocent people. That’s especially true when doctors and professionals are charged with crimes for taking actions that are often considered legitimate medical practices.
The vast majority of these cases are not related to each other, but I am confident we’ll see the government take a similar strategy in each one. One common strategy is when prosecutors threaten to pile on more serious charges in the hopes of squeezing a guilty plea out of a defendant. In cases where someone dies from a drug overdose, for example, the government often threatens accused individuals with charging them for the overdose deaths. When the defendant is a doctor, this kind of federal overreach turns what should be a civil medical malpractice case into a case of homicide by prescription.
Since these cases are federal, it is important to consult an experienced defense attorney who has fought federal criminal charges across the nation.
We have that experience. Our lawyers know how to defend doctors and other health care professionals in alleged “pill mill” cases and people facing health care fraud charges. We have access to the best experts, investigators and forensic accountants that are absolutely vital in defending federal health care fraud charges. And have achieved successful results for people charged with these types of crimes for over 20 years.
If you are being investigated or have been charged with healthcare fraud or illegal drug distribution, call our firm to speak to an attorney. The call is free and completely confidential.