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01.21.16 – Luncheon Notes and Photos

Spokes notes by Teresa Schaal

President Derek Aten welcomed everyone and introduced Kevin Paul who led us in singing the National Anthem. Carl VerBeek provided the invocation. Announcements were made and the “Service Above Selfie” contest was highlighted.

Rotarians were asked to notify the office if they are planning to bring guests to the Thursday weekly meeting by 9 a.m. on Thursday to assure there is adequate seating available for the number of Rotarians and guests who be attending the meeting.

Members have asked what Rotarians are doing to help with the water situation in Flint and Jim White is investigating and will report back to the Club.

Danielle Rowland introduced guests who were in attendance; there were no visiting Rotarians.

Jackie Taylor introduced Susan Shannon, a returning member to our Club. She was a member of our Club and then moved to Seattle and was a Rotarian there. She’s delighted to be back in our Club and is serving as the Executive Director for the Children’s Assessment Center. She shared a heart warming Rotary Youth Exchange success story with the audience.

Judge Jane Markey introduced our keynote speaker, Raymond Beckering III, who was here to present on health care fraud and prescription drug abuse. Ray is the Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan.

The only ongoing health care epidemic is abuse of prescription drugs. 44 people die of opiod overdose in the U.S. each day. It is the leading cause of death and claims more lives than traffic accidents.

From 1999 to 2013 the number of prescriptions quadrupled. In Michigan there are more prescriptions per person than any other state. Generally, the pattern is that a patient is prescribed an opiod drug for pain and when they are not able to continue getting this drug legally, they turn to heroin. Deaths from the combined use of opiods and heroin (or other drug mixtures) is increasing and falls under a category deemed as “unspecified.”

In Kent County the deaths from drug overdose in 1994 was 17; in 2014 it was 75. During this 20 year period it peaked at 97 in 2012.

How bad is the prescription drug abuse problem? It’s REALLY bad! Medicare costs are in the 99.5 percentile and it is not uncommon for an individual to visit 8 different physician practices to obtain narcotics. Patients seeking prescribing doctors may see 60 or more doctors to get their drugs. Out of 548 doctors who were prescribing controlled substances, 7 wrote prescriptions for more than $50,000 worth of drugs. This is due to the doctors not using the MAPS system, which would identify and list all the prescriptions an individual was given. Advocacy groups, such as the AMA, oppose change and do not want to be questioned on this issue. Doctors are the source of the most misused opiods.

On the television show, Dateline, a cancer doctor was reported to authorities by a nurse who recognized the massive amount of fraud that this doctor was conducting. She studied this and reported this to LARA for two years. When the FBI stepped in to investigate, it took them 2 days to see what the nurse had reported. In Michigan the rules are lax and the task force charged with looking into this problem provided recommendations that have not been followed. When the same protocols were used as those that were recommended for Michigan, prescription drug abuse was reduced by 75% in New York, 50% in Florida, and 25% in Tennessee.

MDCH recognizes the problem and is advising doctor education, but between 2012-2015 nothing was done. Using MAPS and physician education needs to be mandatory in Michigan. For Medicare prescriptions, use of these pharmaceuticals went from $1.7 billion to $3.1 billion between 2010 and 2014. Law enforced areas have decreased while the number of pharmacies has increased by 34%. A pharmacy fraud case in Detroit was shared.

Home Health Care agencies are also worth studying as they are not licensed and no certification is needed. “Churned patients” was a term used to describe individuals who “shop” for home health care agencies as a method of obtaining the controlled substance that the individual is seeking.

One of the reasons why prescription drug abuse has increased is the referrals and kickback system that is in place for prescribers. The #1 prescriber of Oxycodone (for Medicare recipients) is in West Michigan. Ray also spoke about criminals in health care and included the story of what happened at Kentwood Pharmacy, which was an $80 million fraud loss discovered by LARA. Michigan needs to get serious about health care and prescription drug abuse fraud.

What can we, as Rotarians, do? Call the governor’s office, your State representative, your senator (etc) and insist that the recommendations of the task force be enforced; make doctors do what the committee said to do.

President Derek presented Ray with a filter for clean water in appreciation for his time with our Club and after the “speaker/president selfie”, the meeting was adjourned.


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