Man gets $350,000 heart bypass by stealing friend's identity

John Parsons apparently believed he would die without heart bypass surgery. To get it, the uninsured 57-year-old ex-convict took a step that has hospital officials shaking their heads--he managed to pass himself off as a mentally-disabled friend and, using the friend's Medicaid card, obtained the surgery. Now, officials at Chicago's Northwestern Memorial Hospital are stuck with a big bill and a lot of questions as to how Parsons pulled it off.

According to the authorities, Parsons got the surgery at Northwestern in 2007, generating about $350,000 in expenses. When bills started arriving at the home of the friend, Philip Johnson, Johnson's live-in caregiver discovered the alleged scam and notified officials. Parsons has since admitted stealing Johnson's identity. Northwestern, for its part, has agreed to cover the cost of the surgery so Johnson won't be responsible for it.

What has healthcare officials puzzled is the extent of the apparent deception. To get the heart bypass, doctors would have needed a lot of clinical information, including patient blood type, cardiac history, medical history and more, records that would be very difficult to fake, notes CMS spokesman Jeff Nelligan. Northwestern continues to investigate the incident.

To learn more about the alleged scam:
- read this Chicago Tribune piece