Fraud might be creating ample ground for the opioid epidemic to continue. (Photo: iStock)

Opioid abuse and overdose deaths in the U.S. are at epidemic levels, in part due to an increased level of fraud within the Medicare Part D program, according to a report released by the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

A total of 69,563 Medicare beneficiaries received extreme amounts of opioids, and 22,308 beneficiaries appeared to be doctor shopping — receiving high amounts of opioids by having multiple prescribers and pharmacies. In 2016 one beneficiary received opioids from 46 different prescribers and 20 different pharmacies. In one month alone, this beneficiary received 11 different opioid prescriptions from eight prescribers in five different states, and filled these prescriptions at six different pharmacies.

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Katie Kuehner-Hebert

Katie Kuehner-Hebert is a freelance writer based in Running Springs, Calif. She has more than three decades of journalism experience, with particular expertise in employee benefits and other human resource topics.

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