Physician Practice Roundup—Doctor sentenced to prison for fraud; Patients with depression go untreated

Doctor sentenced to 13 years in prison for fraud

A New York surgeon was sentenced to 13 years in prison for the submission of millions of dollars in false and fraudulent Medicare claims.

Syed Imran Ahmed, M.D., 51, of Glen Head, New York, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Dora L. Irizarry of the Eastern District of New York, according to the Department of Justice. Ahmed was also ordered to pay more than $7 million in restitution and to pay a $20,000 fine.

Prosecutors said Ahmed stole the money by making fraudulent claims for medical procedures he never performed. He was convicted in 2016 after an 11-day trial of one count of healthcare fraud, three counts of making false statements and two counts of money laundering. (Department of Justice)

Patients with depression go untreated

Despite efforts to detect and treat depression during primary care visits, a study found that only one-third of patients who are diagnosed start treatment for the condition.

The researchers from Kaiser Permanente found that out of a total of more than 240,000 patients who received a new diagnosis of depression in a primary care setting, only 35.7% went on an antidepressant or started psychotherapy within 90 days. The study also found disparities in treatment based on race, ethnicity and age. (Journal of General Internal Medicine study)

AAFP to feds: Eliminate health IT utilization measures

The nation’s leading association of family physicians is urging federal officials to eliminate health IT utilization measures, pare down documentation guidelines and instead focus their energy eliminating data blocking.

In a letter to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and Office of the National Coordinator for the Health IT, the American Academy of Family Physicians outlined ways in which the two agencies can ease the “crushing administrative and regulatory burden” that drives physicians out of practice.

Although provisions of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015  reduced some of the EHR reporting measures compared to Meaningful Use, AAFP Board Chair John Meigs, Jr., M.D., said in the letter that inefficient health IT requirements are still part of the Merit-based Incentive Payment System. “Now that MIPS utilizes measures of quality, cost and practice improvement, the AAFP calls for all HIT utilization measures to be eliminated,” he wrote. “Because we recognize that some of these uses are mandated in statute, we urge CMS and ONC to work with Congress to remedy this unfortunate and outdated approach.” (FierceHealthIT)

Doctor taking drug to prevent HIV, denied long-term disability insurance

A Boston doctor who took the drug Truvada to prevent HIV infection applied for disability insurance and was told he could have only a five-year policy.

Insurers have denied life and disability coverage to men taking Truvada, according to gay-rights advocates, insurance brokers and medical clinic staff. (New York Times)

HHS Secretary Alex Azar goes before House panel to defend health program cuts in Trump’s proposed FY19 budget

Newly confirmed Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told the House Committee on Ways and Means Wednesday morning that the Trump administration’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2019 makes significant and strategic investment in health programs, boosting discretionary spending by 11% and increasing the National Institutes of Health and Food and Drug Administration by millions.

It also supports major priorities of HHS, he said, including combating the opioid crisis, lowering the price of prescription drugs, reducing the costs of health insurance in the individual markets and moving Medicare to a more value-based direction.

Although Trump actually proposed a 21% cut to the HHS budget, the two-year spending bill approved last week provides an additional $27 billion to the department. In total, HHS is poised to receive $95.4 billion under the proposal. The funding, Azar told the committee,  includes an additional $747 million for the National Institutes of Health, a $473 million increase for the Food and Drug Administration and a $157 million increase over 2018 funding for emergency preparedness. (Fierce Healthcare)