While we rely on doctors to recommend the best course of treatment, some
medical professionals do not always put their patients’ best interests
first. In California, several doctors are facing criminal charges for
their roles in a spinal surgery scam.
Because the condition can be so debilitating, patients with chronic back
pain are often willing to try anything to feel better, including major
surgery. Unfortunately, unscrupulous doctors can prey on these emotions
to recommend surgeries that may not be warranted just to pad their own pockets.
Department of Justice recently announced charges in a kickback scheme that generated nearly $600 million in fraudulent billings over an eight-year
period. According to prosecutors, the former chief financial officer of
a Long Beach, California, hospital, two orthopedic surgeons, and two others
have been charged in long-running health care fraud schemes that illegally
referred thousands of patients for spinal surgeries.
The charges involve two similar schemes. In the first, thousands of patients
were referred to Pacific Hospital in Long Beach, where they underwent
spinal surgeries that led to more than $580 million in bills being fraudulently
submitted during the last eight years of the scheme alone. The California
worker’s compensation system and the federal government paid many
of the fraudulent claims. In the second scheme, doctors received illegal
kickbacks for referrals to a Hawaiian Gardens hospital.
In both cases, patients were unaware their doctors had been offered kickbacks
to refer their surgeries. In some cases, they lived hundreds of miles
away from the facility and closer to other qualified hospitals. "Injured
workers were treated like livestock by doctors and hospitals who paid
or accepted kickbacks and bribes in exchange for referrals," California
Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said in a statement.
The charges are the result of the federal government’s ongoing investigation
into kickback schemes involving spinal surgery, dubbed “Operation
Spinal Cap.” All five defendants have agreed to cooperate as the
government continues to investigate the healthcare fraud, which reportedly
involves dozens of surgeons, orthopedic specialists, chiropractors, marketers
and other medical professionals.
When medical professionals commit medical fraud, it can negatively impact
their patients. At the Law Offices of Robert Vaage, we understand the
various ways you or your family can be harmed due to an unscrupulous medical
professional. Don’t hesitate to contact
a San medical negligence attorney at the Law Offices of Robert Vaage for
a free consultation.