Two Delaware Valley Senators are working curb Medicare fraud and the abuse of prescription drugs. U.S. Senators Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.) are teaming with long-time leaders on the issue Tom Coburn, MD (R-Okla.), and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) to introduce an amendment in the Senate Finance Committee. Their bipartisan amendment requires the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to take steps to curb the abuse of prescription drugs.
Sen. Toomey, who recently heard from residents in Delaware County, Pa. about prescription drug abuse said, "Unfortunately, abuse or misuse of prescription drugs is a growing problem. Young or old, some patients begin to take medicines in ways other than what their doctor prescribed. This can lead to not only addiction but to other medical problems. Our legislation would make it easier to educate patients on these dangers and to detect and prevent waste and fraud of the taxpayer dollars that undergird Medicare."
"Curbing prescription drug fraud and abuse will require a team effort involving Medicare officials, law enforcement, the Medicare prescription drug plans, pharmacies and doctors, and the beneficiaries themselves. I am proud to join Senators Toomey and Brown in this amendment and am grateful to Dr. Coburn for his work with us on this important issue. This amendment would take important next steps in preventing waste and fraud in the Medicare prescription drug program," said Sen. Carper. "Every dollar wasted through Medicare prescription drug abuse or fraud is one dollar less for our seniors and the disabled who depend on these life-saving programs. These safeguards are important not only to protect taxpayer money, but to avoid the diversion of drugs that harm our communities."
"I support Senator Toomey and my colleague's amendment that will give the Medicare program a new tool to help curb prescription drug abuse and diversion," said Dr. Coburn. "Their amendment would allow Medicare plans to adopt practices already used in Medicaid plans and commercial insurance plans in which doctors, pharmacists and other specialists intervene to help beneficiaries who are addicts or abusers."
"Abuse of prescription drugs-especially painkillers-can devastate Ohio communities and Ohio families," Sen. Brown said. "Our bipartisan amendment would ensure better tracking of prescription drugs and prevent fraudulent diversion of prescription drugs through the Medicare program."
Under the Senators' bipartisan proposal, the HHS Secretary would be required to take steps to curb fraudulent diversion and cases where Medicare beneficiaries in Medicare Advantage Drug Plans are using prescriptions for non-medical purposes.
The legislation clarifies that data sharing between prescription plans and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is permitted by law to allow effective reviews and prevent further abuse. HHS would also implement appropriate education and controls, and ensure necessary beneficiary access to medication.
Representatives of Pennsylvania's law enforcement community and advocates of substance abuse prevention are endorsing the efforts of Sen. Toomey and his colleagues.
"I applaud this effort to curb prescription drug abuse. On the front lines, we are seeing both the effect of addiction on users and the fraud being perpetrated at the taxpayers' expense," said Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman. "The legislation will help us identify and hold accountable those that are profiting off of addiction."
Said Beth Mingey, Director, Prevention /Education, Holcomb Behavioral Health Systems, Media Pa. "The rapid increase of prescription drug misuse in Delaware County and across the nation has been devastating for youth and families. I'm happy Congress is taking this issue seriously which will surely save lives and am grateful our own Senator is leading the charge."
"Sen. Toomey continues to be a leader on the epidemic of prescription drug abuse that plagues Delaware County and our state. His bipartisan plan is common sense and will combat doctor shopping which leads to the illegal diversion of pills to our streets," said Jack Whelan, Delaware County District Attorney.
"Police officers in Philadelphia are disturbed by the epidemic of prescription drug abuse that afflicts our city," said John McNesby, President, Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police. "I applaud Senator Toomey for working across the aisle to help stem the illegal flow of these drugs to our kids."
"As a mental health care provider, the uptick in overdoses and instances of prescription drug abuse are frightening. I am constantly confronted with families coping with the loss of a loved one or struggling to get them clean. It affects families of all socioeconomic backgrounds and needs. This is a sensible way of helping to prevent these pills from ever getting to our children," said Theresa Agostinelli, LCSW, Glen Mills Counseling Center, Delaware County.
Said Chester County Commissioner Terrence Farrell, "We have seen the alarming rise of prescription drug abuse in Chester County over the past few years. This measure is a step forward in addressing this problem by protecting taxpayers and stopping fraud."