Physician Practice Roundup—Doctors face prison time in 2 fraud cases and more news

Prison
Two physicians have been sentenced to prison in separate healthcare fraud schemes. (kodda/Getty)

Doctors face prison time in 2 fraud cases

A pain-management physician from Maryland and a Detroit-area podiatrist have been sentenced to prison in two separate cases of healthcare fraud.

A judge sentenced Atif Babar Malik, M.D., 48, of Germantown, Maryland, to eight years in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release, for his role in a $1 million kickback and fraudulent billing scheme, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland. He was also convicted of tax fraud for underreporting his income by $3.3 million. Malik was convicted on 26 counts arising from two criminal schemes.

Prosecutors said Malik and another doctor referred patients’ urine toxicology specimens to a testing company, Accu Reference, in return for the payment of kickbacks. His pain-management practice also fraudulently submitted bills to Medicare, and private insurers used a billing code that indicated two separate physicians had provided nerve block and anesthesia, when in fact, only one physician performed both.  

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After pleading guilty, Lawrence Young, D.P.M., 70, of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, was sentenced to 28 months in prison for participating in a $1 million scheme involving podiatry services that were billed to Medicare but never rendered, according to the Department of Justice. Young pleaded guilty to one count of healthcare fraud in January.

Prosecutors said Young defrauded Medicare by submitting false claims for use of an Unna Boot, a type of medicated dressing applied after surgery to control swelling of the leg or foot. He submitted claims for reimbursement although patients routinely received a non-medicated dressing. (U.S. Attorney’s Office announcement, DOJ announcement)

FDA says teen e-cigarette use has reached “epidemic proportion”

The FDA Wednesday announced a set of major new enforcement actions to battle e-cigarette use by young people.

In a statement, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., said vaping among teenagers has reached “an epidemic proportion.” To reduce the sales and marketing of electronic cigarettes to teenagers, the FDA issued more than 1,300 warning letters and fines to retailers for selling e-cigarettes to minors and also gave five companies that make the most popular e-cigarettes among teenagers 60 days to outline plans to mitigate sales to young people. If they don’t, the FDA said it may restrict flavored e-cigarettes.

In response, the American Medical Association said the FDA can do more. “Today’s action—aimed at keeping harmful tobacco products out of the hands of young people—is a step in the right direction, with potential to prevent addiction and disease, save lives, and improve the health of the nation,” said AMA President Barbara McAneny, M.D.

She called on the FDA to create a non-addictive nicotine level standard for all tobacco products, including cigarettes, smokeless tobacco and e-cigarettes. The physician group said the FDA should also prohibit the use of characterizing flavors that enhance the appeal of the products to young people. “Increasing the awareness of the harmful nature of these products and their addictive power is the only way to prevent another generation of Americans from developing nicotine dependence,” she said. (FDA statement, FDA announcement, AMA announcement)

More than 40 healthcare organizations team up to improve diagnostics

Some of the country’s biggest names in healthcare are joining forces to improve diagnostics.

More than 40 groups have signed on to the Coalition to Improve Diagnosis to participate in ACT for Better Diagnosis. The project, which is spearheaded by the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine (SIDM), aims to promote better education and best practices that reduce patient harm.

Paul Epner, CEO and co-founder of SIDM, told FierceHealthcare in an interview that diagnostic errors are one of the leading causes of patient harm and a problem hospitals of all sizes need to address. (FierceHealthcare)