Officials investigating billings at 2,600 drugstores

WASHINGTON (AP) - A new government report finds that Medicare paid $5.6 billion to 2,600 pharmacies with questionable billings in 2009.

They included a Kansas drugstore that submitted more than 1,000 prescriptions each for two patients. Then there was the Los Angeles pharmacy that billed Medicare's prescription program $8.4 million, nine times the national average.

The report by the inspector general of the Health and Human Services Department finds that the corner drugstore is vulnerable to fraud partly because Medicare does not require private insurers that deliver prescription benefits to seniors to report suspicious patterns.

Only 4 percent of the nation's 59,000 pharmacies were found to have questionable billings, but the losses add up when the typical pharmacy bills the program $1 million a year.

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