After having faced a significant heart-related scare and receiving a stent implant, many patients are now facing a rather unbelievable reality: it has been discovered that doctors across the nation have been performing unnecessary surgical procedures in order to financially benefit. Doctors, implanting the device intended to unblock clogged heart vessels, are now accused of recommending the procedure in order to bill private and government health insurers for unnecessary medical procedures. A stent is essentially a mesh tube that is inserted most commonly inside the heart and then expanded, using a small balloon to open blocked arteries that prevent blood flow to heart muscle. Despite the fact that stents are a medical breakthrough, it seems as though many individuals are having these devices implanted without having any need for them. While some might believe this does not have any significant drawbacks, the reality is that the procedure implanting them, and the devices themselves, expose patients to a risk of future medical complications due to the fact they have an unnecessary foreign device inserted into their body.
As a result of these discoveries, numerous doctors all over the United States are currently being investigated or indicted, even sentenced to prison for performing unnecessary procedures on individuals. The main criminal charge these medical professionals face is health care fraud. Many times, this situation would go unnoticed if it were not for the hundreds of patient complaints pouring into the hospital boards, motivating investigations into why the doctors have performed so many of these specific procedures on individuals. One investigation of Dr. Mark Midei, of Maryland, led the Maryland Medical Board to hold that Medei was involved in “gross overutilization of health care services… and willfully making a false report or record in the practice of medicine.” One statistic in particular leads some to believe that Dr. Midei is not alone in this practice: the number of stent procedures has almost tripled within the past ten years. What’s more, the number of patients receiving this type of implant has increased steadily every year since 1993, and continues to rise.
Additionally, in Lafayette, Louisiana, in 2009, Dr. Mehmood Petel, formerly of Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital and Lafayette General Hospital in Louisiana, was convicted of 51 counts of fraudulent medical procedures and received the maximum sentence of ten years in a federal state penitentiary. Over 75 patients charged Dr. Patel with fraud and of performing unnecessary heart stent procedures on them. Testifying experts, as well as the Department of Justice, revealed that the majority of the patients who received such implant had little or no disease. Patel was also found to have falsified patient symptoms in medical records, including specific symptoms such as heart pain. The amount of money that Patel billed insurers was astronomical; between 1999-2003, Patel billed Medicare and provate insurance companies more than $3 million, pocketing more than $500,000.
In order to prove health care fraud, a certain set of facts need to be proven. Specifically, to convict a “defendant of health care fraud, the government has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he knowingly and willfully executed, or attempted to execute: a scheme or artifice —
(1.) To defraud any health care benefit program; or
(2.) To obtain, by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises, any of the money or property owned by, or under the custody or control of, any health care benefit program in connection with the delivery of or payment for health care benefits, items, or services.”
(United States v. Refert, 519 F.3d 752, 758 (8 Cir. 2008).
The issue many courts are facing is that the Medical Review Boards have expressed the desire to handle these situations themselves, absent the legal system. This presents patients with the dilemma of communicating what they have gone through and not receiving adequate compensation or justice at the end of the day. In fact, many Medical Review Boards feel that peer review solves any potential problems such as the unnecessary heart stent procedures. However, it has not been until recently that the sting procedures were investigated and/or prosecuted. The New York Times recently reported that stents are a profitable, big business within the medical field — manufacturers such as Johnson & Johnson (who are currently facing legal problems over their recalled hip implant devices) sold over $3 billion worth of stents last year alone. That number has steadily increased along with the incomes of the Doctor’s who consistently utilize them.
If a person has had a heart stent implanted within the last ten years, exploration into their medical history and condition may be necessary. The old adage, “It is better to be safe than sorry,” may be applied to individual’s going through this situation. Instead of experiencing the fear that the heart stent may not have been necessary, allow a legal representative to explore the situation and clarify what is going on. However, they do not have to rely on the Medical Review Boards alone, having legal representation may help to protect their rights as well as ease a stressful situation into a manageable one.
Therefore, if advice, help, and counsel are needed, please call The Berniard Law Firm, Toll Free at 1-866-574-8005. Legal representation is a smart move to make when facing the confusing task of going through the bureaucratic levels of the medical world.