Not Authorized to Prescribe Drugs? Medicare Pays Anyway.

The inspector general of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a study June 24 that found that more than 417,000 prescriptions paid for by Medicare’s 2009 prescription drug program were written by unauthorized professionals. Medicare has paid for prescriptions purportedly written by massage therapists, athletic trainers, dieticians, and interpreters, among other professionals not authorized to prescribe drugs to individuals. The cost of the questionably prescribed drugs amounts to $31.6 million, according to the study. “We don’t have the money in Medicare to be wasting for this area,” said Senator Tom Carper, D-Del., chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, in reference to abuses of the Medicare system which cost the government $62 billion last year. On Monday, his panel scheduled a hearing, Curbing Prescription Drug Abuse in Medicare. While the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has indicated that some examples cited by the report may have been due to weaknesses in the federal database relied upon by the inspector general, criticism regarding Medicare’s lax oversight of the program continues to build.

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