Updated January 28, 2019
Earlier this summer, a massive bribery case ongoing in New Jersey rumbled along as a twenty-seventh doctor pleaded guilty in federal court. The doctor had accepted bribes that were disguised as consulting fees in return for directing blood samples to a particular lab service for testing. That doctor could face as much as $250,000 in fines and up to five years in prison when he is sentenced this fall.
The investigation has so far brought in forty-one guilty pleas, including the twenty-seven physicians, and the lab behind the scheme pleaded guilty and closed down. The president of the lab company, who has also pleaded guilty, testified that the bribes helped steer more than $100 million in business over a seven-year period.
This New Jersey case, both in terms of the number of those pleading and the dollar amount involved, is thought to be the largest physician bribery plot ever prosecuted—but it’s not the only recent incident of this nature. A separate and unrelated case also in New Jersey led to a physician being sentenced to one year in prison for taking close to $200,000 in kickbacks for lab referrals.
In a Chicago case that has unfolded over the past few years, ten people (including five physicians) have so far been convicted of conspiracy, fraud, and other charges. A Mississippi doctor is scheduled to go on trial next month for his part in a scheme that paid the state’s chief prison official a monthly bribe in exchange for awarding more than $29 million in contracts to the doctor’s medical services company. Five others have been indicted so far for their parts in the crime, and four have already pleaded guilty.
While those cases involved individual physicians and others who accepted payment for directing business to lab companies or other medical facilities that then profited from both the lab fees and Medicare and insurance billings, a much larger case settled this spring involved a major medical device manufacturer. Olympus, a maker of specialty medical diagnostic devices, agreed to pay $646 million in fines to resolve an ongoing investigation into its practices. Olympus will operate under the conditions of a special corporate integrity agreement overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services for the next five years as part of the settlement.
On the surface, bribery might seem to be unrelated to medical malpractice, but these practices can be tightly intertwined. In some of these cases, the tests prescribed and the procedures performed may have been medically unnecessary, which not only costs patients and their insurers money they shouldn’t have had to spend, but it also puts them at risk of harm during the unnecessary procedure and for complications afterward. The Chicago case might be particularly egregious, as it included accusations that the facility had performed numerous unnecessary tracheotomies on referred Medicare and Medicaid patients.
Medical malpractice covers a range of issues, from misdiagnosis to preventable infection and from prescription errors to unnecessary surgery. If you or a loved one have been injured as a result of medical malpractice, contact the attorneys of Wilson Kehoe Winingham. An experienced Indianapolis medical malpractice lawyer at WKW can help you get the compensation you deserve.
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