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Loads of Rainbow Fentanyl Arrive in NY, Marijuana Pardons in U.S. Free Thousands, and Billions Stolen from Medicare
Here is a recap of some of the top industry-related news stories of the week:
Trafficker-Quantities of “Rainbow Fentanyl” Arrive in New York
One person was arrested and approximately 15,000 fentanyl pills were seized as part of an ongoing investigation into a fentanyl trafficking organization. The fentanyl pills, in various colors, were destined for distribution throughout New York City and had been concealed in a LEGO box to deter law enforcement attention. The fentanyl pills were also imprinted with “M” and “30” to resemble “30 M”, Oxycodone Hydrochloride 30 mg pills.
This significant seizure, the largest to date in New York City, signals more widespread distribution of these dangerous colorful pills. The case highlights Mexican cartels’ most recent tactics to attract the public while deceiving them about the lethal drugs. The Sinaloa Cartel and Jalisco New Generation Cartel are mass-producing fentanyl pills in rainbow colors to not only brand their products, but use colors and dyes to mimic candy and/or legitimate prescription drugs.
“Rainbow fentanyl is a clear and present danger, and it is here in New York City,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Frank Tarentino. “Approximately forty percent of the pills we analyze in our lab contain a lethal dose; and in a recent 15-week enforcement operation, DEA New York seized half a million lethal pills. These staggering statistics underscore the importance of reminding the public that just one pill can kill; and this operation alone removed the equivalent of 500,000 lethal doses of fentanyl from circulation in the Empire State. In the same reporting period, DEA seized the equivalent of over 36 million lethal doses nationally.”
Explainer: Marijuana Pardons in U.S. Help Thousands, Leave Others in Prison
U.S. President Joe Biden's pardon for thousands of Americans convicted of simple marijuana possession under federal law has a profound impact, experts and individuals say, even if it affects fewer people than similar state and local initiatives. Biden has called on governors to issue similar pardons regarding state marijuana offenses.
Biden's pardons announced Oct. 6 affect about 6,500 people convicted of cannabis possession at the federal level. None remain in prison. Without a felony on their record, they won't be challenged when applying for a job or trying to rent an apartment. Research by the American Civil Liberties Union has shown Black Americans are nearly four times as likely as whites to be arrested for marijuana possession.
Biden's pardon does not affect some 3,000 people convicted of higher-level marijuana crimes who remain in federal prisons, and as many as 30,000 who are still in prison in several states, according to the advocacy group the Last Prisoner Project. Those numbers do not reflect people with convictions for marijuana possession at the state level, although approximately 2 million marijuana convictions have been expunged or pardoned by states where the drug is now legal.
Hospitals and Insurance Companies Stole Billions from Medicare
Anthem, a large insurer now called Elevance Health, paid more to doctors who said their patients were sicker. Executives at UnitedHealth Group, the country’s largest insurer, told their workers to mine old medical records for more illnesses — and when they couldn’t find enough, sent them back to try again.
Each of the strategies — which were described by the Justice Department in lawsuits against the companies — led to diagnoses of serious diseases that might have never existed. But the diagnoses had a lucrative side effect: They let the insurers collect more money from the federal government’s Medicare Advantage program. Medicare Advantage, a private-sector alternative to traditional Medicare, was designed by Congress two decades ago to encourage health insurers to find innovative ways to provide better care at lower costs. If trends hold, by next year, more than half of Medicare recipients will be in a private plan.
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