Massage therapists and home contractors are not authorized to prescribe drugs—but Medicare will still cover the cost, anyway. That's according to a new study by the Department of Health and Human Services, which found Medicare paid $31.6 million in 2009 as part of its Part D program for 30,000 prescriptions written by people who ... can't actually write prescriptions, ProPublica reports. People like nutritionists, opticians, art therapists, vets, and interpreters, it says in the report.
Given many of the drugs prescribed, such as painkillers, are easily abused, the department's inspector general found the error isn't just dangerous, but "may also contribute to the prescription drug abuse problem in our nation." The news comes just days after the inspector general released another report identifying over 700 doctors in the US with " question able prescribing patterns," ProPublica reports. In one case, a doctor had prescriptions filled in 872 different pharmacies in 47 states and Guam. In another, Medicare paid $9.7 million in one year for the scripts of a single doctor—151 times the average. (Read more Medicare stories.)