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How Some of Your Medicare Dollars are Spent?

CNSNews.com's Terry Jeffrey reports that according to a study by the HHS Inspector General, "14.4 Million Medicare Part D Beneficiaries Got $4.1 Billion in Opioids in 2016."

He reported in part:

"A total of 14.4 million beneficiaries of Medicare Part D, which offers Medicare recipients the opportunity to get federally subsidized prescription drug coverage, received at least one prescription for an opioid in 2016 while the Medicare Part D program paid about $4.1 billion to provide them with those drugs, according to a study by the inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services.

"Nationwide, 33 percent of all Medicare Part D beneficiaries got federally funded opioids in 2016.

"In Alabama, it went as high as 46 percent; in Mississippi, it was 45 percent; and, in Arkansas, it was 44 percent.

"The IG’s discovery that 14.4 million Medicare Part D beneficiaries got an opioid prescription in 2016 was cited in a Government Accountability Office report released today.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reported that from 1999 to 2014 the rate of drug poisoning deaths from prescription opioids nearly quadrupled from 1.4 to 5.1 per 100,000 people,” said the GAO report. “In addition, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) reported that 14.4 million people (about one-third) who participate in Medicare Part D received at least one prescription for opioids in 2016, and that Part D spending for opioids in 2016 was almost $4.1 billion.”

"The inspector general’s report—“Opioids in Medicare Part D: Concerns about Extreme Use and Questionable Prescribing”—was completed in July.

“In 2016,” said the IG report, “one out of every three beneficiaries received at least one prescription opioid through Medicare Part D.

“In total,” said the report, “14.4 million of the 43.6 million beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare Part D received opioids. Medicare Part D paid almost $4.1 billion for 79.4 million opioid prescriptions for these beneficiaries.”

“Several states had higher proportions of beneficiaries receiving opioids than the nation overall, which was 33 percent,” said the IG. “Alabama and Mississippi had the highest proportions, with almost half of the state’s Part D beneficiaries receiving at least one opioid—46 percent and 45 percent respectively. Arkansas had 44 percent of beneficiaries receiving opioids, while Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Louisiana each had 42 percent. The two lowest proportions were in Hawaii (21 percent) and New York (22 percent).”

"Some of the Medicare Part D beneficiaries received an opioid prescription only for a short period of time. But others received an opioid on what the IG called “a regular basis”—and some received “high” or “extreme” amounts.

"Some beneficiaries also appeared to be “doctor shopping” in pursuit of opioids."

The report was performed at the request of senators Pat Toomey (R.-Pa.) and Tim Kaine (D.-Va.). According to Sen. Kaine,  “This report's findings are troubling and show that more needs to be done to protect seniors from the dangers of opioid overuse."

Growls readers are encouraged to read Jeffrey's entire report for additional details.

The 16-page Inspector General Data Brief (OEI-02-17-00250) is available here. Jeffrey also noted the IG findings were cited in a 35-page General Accountability Office (GAO) report, "PRESCRIPTION OPIOIDS: Medicare Needs to Expand Oversight Efforts to Reduce the Risk of Harm," (Number GAO-18-15). which was released today.

Growls readers concerned about the abuse of opioids or the abuse of Medicare are encouraged to engage their members of Congress. Contact information is available at the Library of Congress' Congress.gov. Taxpayers living in Virginia's Arlington County can contact:

  • Senator Mark Warner (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-2023
  • Senator Tim Kaine (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-4024
  • Representative Don Beyer (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376

And ask for a written response. And tell them ACTA sent you.

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