Often people think of drug abuse as a young person’s problem. While young people do make up more than their fair share of the drug addiction and abuse community, they are far from having exclusive ownership of the problem. Older Americans, particularly those who suffer from chronic pain, can easily become addicted to prescription drugs. In fact, it is possible that Medicare fraud could be contributing to opioid abuse amongst the elderly. This could be particularly frightening when this abuse occurs in a patient living with dementia. Medicare fraud by seniors could also be a result not of their own opioid addiction but rather the addiction of a caretaker who is engaged in elder abuse and who uses the elderly person’s medications.
Lawmakers Raise Concerns Over Link Between Opioid Abuse and Medicare Fraud
Modern Healthcare reports that in a recent congressional hearing lawmakers interrogated officials from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) regarding a potential link between Medicare fraud and opioid abuse. Medicare fraud happens, and the lawmakers are concerned that some questionable Medicare billing discovered by the Office of the Inspector General dealt directly with opioids. Medicare Part D data shows that between 2006 and 2014 the number of beneficiaries who received commonly abused opioids grew by 92 percent. The number of beneficiaries of drugs over all increased by 68 percent during that same time period,
Senators Pushing Bill to Decrease Opioid Abuse
NBC29 reports that senators are pushing a bipartisan bill to combat opioid abuse amongst the elderly and those who are using elderly people’s medications. The prospective law is called the “Stopping Medication Abuse and Protecting Seniors Act.” Its aim is to prevent drug addicted Medicare patients from doctor shopping. Doctor shopping is when an addict files multiple narcotic prescriptions from multiple doctors. Patients who are receiving hospice care or who are able to establish they actually have a need for a high amount of pain killers would be exempt from the law.
How Common is Drug Abuse by Elderly Americans?
One study indicates that as many as 11 percent of seniors may abuse prescription drugs. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, older Americans are at a heightened risk for prescription drug abuse. Because older patients naturally have more health problems they are more likely to be given multiple prescriptions and long-term prescriptions. Some older Americans struggle with dementia or cognitive decline, which makes improper medication use more likely. Because many seniors live on a fixed income they are likely to improperly use other people’s leftover medications rather than spend money on their own. This can result in serious health consequences or even ultimately drug abuse. Seniors who have a large number of health problems or who spend part of the year in one location and the other part of the year in another are also likely to have multiple doctors, which can lead to multiple prescriptions which is a major risk factor for drug abuse.
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