Medicare shells out millions for narcotics

Wednesday Waste | October 5, 2011

A Senate report estimates that Medicare might just be one of America’s largest drug mules.

In 2007 alone, taxpayer-funded Medicare shelled out $148 million subsidizing hydrocodone, fentanyl, oxycodone and other narcotics, Bloomberg reports.

This class of drugs is amongst the most frequently abused.

The Senate report indicates that many Medicare patients prescribed the narcotics might not be using them the way the doctor ordered — costing taxpayers up to $150 million each year.

Approximately 170,000 Medicare patients in 2008 convinced at least five different doctors to prescribe narcotics. Some patients were found to have prescriptions from more than 80 providers — suggesting that the pills were being resold for profit and illegal use.

As Sen. Scott Brown, the senior Republican of the report-producing Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee said, “Beyond the fraud and abuse, taxpayer dollars are potentially being used to fuel the illicit prescription drug trade.”

The day before the release of the report, the government announced they would expand the Medicare drug program to cover benzodiazepines and barbiturates — also commonly abused drugs.  This expanded coverage, approved by George W. Bush in 2008, will cost taxpayers $1.9 billion through 2018.

Ironically, and unfortunately, it seems that Washington’s spending addiction could be fueling other, just as harmful, addictions.

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