Posted by Bill Sandweg on 22 January 2018.
Let’s get this out of the way first. Most doctors are good, caring people who place the interests of their patients first. You want your doctor to be that person. In my practice, however, I see many patients who had the other kind of doctor: the one who puts his or her interests ahead of yours. The reason is almost always the usual one: It’s the money, stupid. When it’s the money that comes first for a doctor, malpractice often follows.
The first of today’s examples is a Pennsylvania doctor who is charged with five patient deaths as a result of his illegal prescription of opioids. In the first seven months of 2016, this doctor wrote prescriptions for nearly 3,000,000 doses of opioids. Unsurprisingly, during this period, he was the top prescriber of opioids in the state. It appears that pretty much all you had to do was show up at his office and say you had pain and you could walk out with a prescription. Undoubtedly, this doctor’s greed ruined the lives of many patients who got drugs from him but did not die, at least not yet. He has surrendered his medical license and now awaits trial. Good riddance.
The second example is a little closer to home. Emcare, Inc. is a nationwide company that hires emergency department doctors and then contracts with hospitals to staff their emergency departments. Emcare doctors staff a number of emergency departments in the Phoenix area. Emcare was charged by the federal government with taking kickbacks from a company that owned a number of hospitals in return for having its ED physicians order patients be admitted to the hospital instead of having them receive further care as outpatients. The hospital would then make money off the patient admission. The scheme allegedly ran from 2008 to 2012. The federal government was involved because many of these patients were Medicare beneficiaries who could have received the treatment they needed much less expensively had they not been admitted to the hospital. There is no way to tell just how much this fraud cost the government but Emcare has agreed to pay almost $30 million to resolve the charges against it. It is not just the taxpayers who are damaged when doctors order patients into the hospital when they do not need to be there. Patients face many risks in the hospital that they do not face at home. Among them are exposure to infection and illness and an increased risk of medical mistake.
While the Pennsylvania doctor won’t be harming patients any longer, Emcare continues to do big business in Arizona and elsewhere. No one at Emcare is under arrest or facing criminal charges for its scheme. Guess the old adage has some truth, “Steal $100 and you go to jail but steal $10,000,000 and you may only have to pay a fine.”