Last week, the U.S. Justice Department announced a major takedown of telemedicine that it says went too far.
It’s among the bigger healthcare-fraud sweeps to date: 35 people charged with over $2.1 billion in false or fraudulent bills. The defendants hail from telemedicine companies and genetic-testing labs and include nine physicians. They reportedly billed Medicare for tens or hundreds of millions of dollars per year and collected seven or eight figures in those years. The Associated Press has the story here.
It’s the culmination of a flurry of activity that has charged over 380 people in the last month, including 105 people in opioid-related cases.
This time, the defendants supposedly rounded up Medicare beneficiaries and signed them up for free cancer screenings. They found them through marketing or at health fairs, church events, or senior centers. Then doctors who had never met them prescribed genetic tests that were medically unnecessary or even worthless. In some cases, the doctor and patient never interacted at all, and in others, they had a brief phone call but were otherwise strangers. The labs billed Medicare for the tests and kicked back money to the doctors, marketers, or both. Oftentimes, people never even got their results.
That’s all according to the government, of course, so we’ll see.
But in the meantime, it’s better to talk to your own doctor about such things.
And remember, there’s no such thing as a free lunch.