WASHINGTON (AP) — Medicare's popular prescription program has an unsavory underside. It's an easy target for drug abusers seeking to feed their own addictions or sell painkillers for profit, congressional investigators said in a report released Tuesday.

The Government Accountability Office found that about 170,000 Medicare recipients each received prescriptions from multiple doctors for 14 frequently abused medications in 2008. Not counting related charges for office visits, the cost to the taxpayer-supported program amounted to $148 million.

Abuse of prescription medications is a fast-growing drug problem, particularly entrenched among teens and young adults. Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., who requested investigation, said Medicare has a responsibility to not make things any worse.

"We have a moral imperative to make sure the public health system is not used to subsidize and intensify a public health crisis," Carper said at a hearing of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs subcommittee on federal financial management.

Complete your profile to continue reading and get FREE access to BenefitsPRO, part of your ALM digital membership.

  • Critical BenefitsPRO information including cutting edge post-reform success strategies, access to educational webcasts and videos, resources from industry leaders, and informative Newsletters.
  • Exclusive discounts on ALM, BenefitsPRO magazine and BenefitsPRO.com events
  • Access to other award-winning ALM websites including ThinkAdvisor.com and Law.com
NOT FOR REPRINT

© 2024 ALM Global, LLC, All Rights Reserved. Request academic re-use from www.copyright.com. All other uses, submit a request to [email protected]. For more information visit Asset & Logo Licensing.