One of Maryland's top cardiac-care hospitals is in hot water after an internal review prompted by a federal investigation determined that hundreds of patients had unnecessary coronary stents implanted in their arteries, possibly as part of an insurance fraud scheme.
Some 369 patients at Towson-based St. Joseph Medical Center received the stents. Many patients were told that they had severely clogged arteries, the Baltimore Sun reports. For example, Vicki Marrs was told she had 90 percent blockage in an artery, but later learned her blockage was closer to 10 percent.
"You go to a doctor thinking he's going to take care of you and make you better, and now I have this thing that I don't need and that can't be removed," said Marrs.
Her physician, Dr. Mark G. Midei, is at the center of the inquiry, but denies any wrongdoing. "I am confident that I have always acted in the best interest of my patients, and when all the facts are presented, I will continue providing quality medical care to my patients," Midei said in a statement. A star doctor at the hospital, Midei stopped practicing and lost his privileges at St. Joseph last summer.
Stent placement procedures can cost $10,000 or more. In order to receive reimbursement for performing the procedures from Medicare or private insurers, patients oftentimes must be found to have had at least 70 percent blockage; according to St. Joseph, a blockage of 50 percent or less is not significant.
"If true, it speaks volumes about why the reimbursement system of paying doctors and hospitals per procedure is sending medical costs out of control," a blogger for the Baltimore Sun wrote.