(Reuters) - The U.S. Department of Justice said on Thursday 243 people have been arrested across the country and charged with submitting fake billing for Medicare that totaled $712 million.

Those arrested included 46 doctors, nurses and other licensed medical professionals. The charges are based on a variety of alleged fraud schemes, the department said, including submitting claims to Medicare and Medicaid for treatments that were medically unnecessary and often never provided.

The nationwide sweep, led by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, is the largest in the group's history, both in terms of the number of defendants charged and the amount of money lost.

Since 2007, as part of increased efforts to tackle Medicare fraud, federal authorities have charged nearly 2,100 people with falsely charging the Medicare program more than $6.5 billion, according to the Justice Dept.

(Reporting by Lindsay Dunsmuir and Megan Cassella; Editing by Bill Trott)