Physician Practice Roundup—Elderly doctor and wife sentenced to prison for running ‘pill mill’ and more news

Elderly doctor and wife sentenced to prison for running ‘pill mill’

An 80-year-old doctor and his wife have been sentenced to prison for operating a Manhattan “pill mill.”

Rogelio Lucas, M.D., an internal medicine physician, and his wife Lydia Lucas, who was his office manager, will serve prison time for running a prescription opioid pill mill on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, which led to approximately 3.2 million oxycodone pills with a street value of nearly $80 million flooding the streets of New York City, according to the city’s Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor.

Rogelio Lucas was sentenced to one to four years in prison on one count of conspiracy in the fourth degree and 1.5 years in prison on each of 29 counts of criminal sale of a prescription for a controlled substance. Lydia Lucas, 82, a former physician, was sentenced to one to three years in prison on the conspiracy charge and one year in prison on each of the other counts. He surrendered his medical license in April 2016 while criminal charges were pending. The Lucases were found guilty by a Manhattan jury after a four-week trial in May.

Prior to 2009, the Lucases ran a primary care practice. However, between 2009 and 2015, the practice underwent a transformation into a pill mill that churned out thousands of illegitimate prescriptions for oxycodone in exchange for illegal cash payments, the prosecutor’s office said. (Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor announcement)

Oak Street Health purchases neighborhood clinics in Philadelphia

Oak Street Health, a network of primary care centers that operates on a value-based care model providing services to Medicare-eligible adults, has expanded with four new neighborhood clinics in Philadelphia.

Oak Street purchased the Medicare operations of CityLife Neighborhood Clinics and will serve patients with Medicare and Medicare Advantage at four of its centers. The acquisition expands on Oak Street Health’s entry into the Philadelphia market, with three existing locations. In addition to seven Philadelphia-area locations, Oak Street operates 40 other locations in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Michigan. (Oak Street Health announcement)

Doctor who made comments about female pay gap resigns leadership positions

The fallout has continued for a Texas doctor who found himself in a storm of controversy after he said female physicians make less money because they don’t work as hard.

Gary Tigges, M.D., an internal medicine doctor in Plano, stepped down from his leadership positions at Texas Health Plano, according to Dallas News. Tigges faced widespread criticism after his comments were published in a Dallas medical journal and he publicly apologized. He has said his comments were misconstrued and that he did not know they would be made public.

Tigges has since resigned from his roles on the executive committee of Texas Health Plano’s medical board and as chair of the hospital’s credentialing committee. (Dallas News article)

Doctor running for Congress faces attack ad on her medical practice

Kim Schrier, M.D., a pediatrician, is one of several Democratic physicians running in races across the country as first-time candidates for Congress.

An opponent in the race for Washington’s 8th District seat has targeted her medical practice, alleging her practice turned away children on Medicaid, according to King5 News.

The ad was paid for by the Congressional Leadership Fund, a GOP super PAC. Schrier works for Virginia Mason, one of Washington’s largest healthcare providers. The clinic where she works does not accept all Medicaid plans, but the news report points out that individual doctors who work for large providers do not decide which insurance plans they accept.

According to a campaign statement, attorneys for Schrier’s campaign have sent a cease-and-desist letter to Seattle-area TV stations to stop running the ad, which it says falsely accuses her of personally refusing to provide medical care to economically disadvantaged children. Schrier says she does treat Medicaid patients and has never refused a patient because of their insurance or ability to pay. (King 5 News report, Schrier campaign statement)

20 patient and physician groups urge CMS to protect patients who use oxygen

A coalition made up of 20 patient and physician groups is urging the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to protect patients who use supplemental oxygen. The organizations, which submitted comments on a proposed rule for durable medical equipment and its application to supplemental oxygen, want CMS to remove liquid oxygen from its competitive bidding requirements.

“Our organizations recognize that CMS’s proposal will not ultimately solve the problems facing patients—especially those who require liquid oxygen—and today, are urging CMS to remove liquid oxygen from competitive bidding requirements,” the groups wrote. (Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation announcement)