Prescription drug abuse by the elderly and disabled is a growing problem. According to a new report, people now have reason to be concerned about those on Medicaid who abuse drugs paid for by their government aid.
Drug Abuse Report
More and more people are abusing Medicare Part D, which covers prescription medications for the elderly and disabled. Those who are abusing the system are doctor shopping around in order to feed their addiction for these drugs, or are selling the pills for a huge profit. A report released this week estimated the number of patients who “doctor shopped” while on Medicare to be as high as 170,000. “Our analysis found that about 170,000 Medicare beneficiaries received prescriptions from five or more medical practitioners” and these medications were 14 of the most frequently abused prescription drugs, said Gregory D. Kutz, director of forensic audits at the Government Accountability Office. (1)
As Senator Thomas R. Carper of Delaware said, “Federal dollars intended to address the health needs of the elderly and the poor are instead being used to feed addictions or to pad the wallets of drug dealers. This is clearly unacceptable.” (1) Some of the stories released in the government’s report are shocking. Some men and women are getting thousands of oxycodone pills from dozens of different doctors and from up to 40 different pharmacies.
A Public Health Crisis
People are naturally outraged over this report and the fact that this kind of drug abuse is being allowed and even funded by taxpayer dollars. Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts called it “taxpayer-funded drug dealing”, and Senator Carper, at a government hearing on federal financial management said, “We have a moral imperative to make sure the public health system is not used to subsidize and intensify a public health crisis.” (2)
Looking for Solutions
However, combating this type of drug abuse is proving to be difficult. “There is a balance between stopping behavior that is clearly fraudulent and illegal, and ensuring that beneficiaries have access to medication,” Jonathan Blum, director of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said. (3) The last thing anyone wants to do is keep someone from getting their medication if they really need it.
This problem is an issue among all insurance and medication coverage providers, and many are looking at effective ways to keep people from doctor shopping. The prescription drug databases that have been established in many states is one way to monitor the amount of medication being prescribed to each patient and how many doctors they are visiting to get those prescriptions. Other insurance providers have limits on the number of doctors patients can get prescriptions from, but that regulation doesn’t seem possible for government funded aid. The hope is that since the government is now working more diligently to decrease prescription drug abuse, they will find a way to crack down on Medicare Part D recipients who abuse the system.