Tuesday, December 14, 2010

NJ Taxpayers Fleeced By Cops; Firefighters Obtaining HGH and Steroids

This is a story that hits at the nexus of health care, insurance, government spending, and taxpayers bearing the burden for the costs.

It's a story of cops and firefighters getting costly steroids and human growth hormone (HGH) from doctors and wellness centers and the costs get passed on to the municipalities that employ the cops or firefighters. While the firefighters and cops pay minimal co-pays, the municipalities (which are often self-insured) have to pick up the tab themselves - and those health care costs are passed on to taxpayers in the form of higher costs of governance.

It's a story of fraud, financial mismanagement, and lousy ethics and enforcement of existing law.
A Star-Ledger investigation has found that at least 248 officers and firefighters obtained steroids, growth hormone and other testosterone-boosting drugs from Colao before his death in August 2007. In addition, the newspaper found Colao often falsely diagnosed his patients with hormone deficiencies to justify his prescriptions, a violation of the law and medical ethics.

For the officers and firefighters in the physician’s practice, the drugs came cheap.

Like Vargas, they used their government benefits to pay for the substances in most, if not all, cases. A Star-Ledger analysis suggests the total cost to taxpayers runs into the millions of dollars, driven primarily by Colao’s willingness to so widely prescribe human growth hormone, one of the most tightly regulated drugs in the nation.

For members of the Jersey City Police Department alone, Colao wrote 235 growth hormone prescriptions in a 13-month period, according to legal filings related to the brutality suit.
The public cost of just those prescriptions, based on an average price of $1,100 per month, runs to nearly $260,000.

Pharmacy records obtained by The Star-Ledger show hundreds of other prescriptions went to law enforcement officers and firefighters from 53 agencies, including the state Department of Corrections, the State Police, the NJ Transit Police Department, county sheriff’s offices and municipal departments large and small.

As expansive as Colao’s practice became, the abuse of taxpayer funds for steroids and other hormones didn’t begin or end with one Jersey City doctor.

The Star-Ledger found Colao to be an example of a wider problem, one fueled by a lack of oversight within police and fire agencies, a reluctance by prosecutors to bring criminal charges for insurance fraud and a failure by health plan administrators to flag outlandish claims.

In the years before Colao’s death, for example, New Jersey’s residents were billed $300,000 for steroids and growth hormone a group of Trenton police officers bought over the internet from a Florida dentist, state officials confirmed.
Sadly, I think even the Star Ledger's coverage just grazes the tip of the iceberg.

As they say, read the whole thing. The quest to get stronger and remain strong means that cops and firefighters will try anything, including HGH and steroids. That decision can (and has) cost some their lives.

No comments: