Anesthesiologist indicted for alleged role in $7M telemedicine fraud case

Department of justice
A telemedicine scheme resulted in $7 million in fraudulent claims to Medicare, Medicare Part D plans and private insurance plans. (William_Potter/Getty Images)

A New York anesthesiologist was indicted in a federal court in Brooklyn Tuesday for her alleged role in a telemedicine scheme that resulted in $7 million in fraudulent claims to Medicare, Medicare Part D plans and private insurance plans.

The physician, Anna Steiner, was charged with conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud and was arraigned before U.S. District Judge I. Leo Glasser, according to a press release from the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

Beginning in January 2015, Steiner, from Valatie, New York,  and other medical providers purported to practice telemedicine pursuant to agreements with unnamed companies in exchange for kickbacks paid for each purported telemedicine encounter, according to the indictment. 

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Steiner and other medical providers allegedly signed numerous prescriptions and order forms for durable medical equipment and drugs for beneficiaries when the medical equipment and drugs were not medically necessary and not the result of an actual doctor-patient relationship or examination, according to the DOJ.

Equipment suppliers and pharmacies then submitted to Medicare more than $7 million in claims on behalf of more than 3,000 beneficiaries, including residents of the Eastern District of New York. Medicare paid more than $3 million on these claims.

While Steiner claimed to provide telemedicine services to patients, her telecare was a "fiction and the claims submitted to Medicare unnecessary and fraudulent,” U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue said in a statement.

“This Office and our law enforcement partners will continue vigorously investigating and prosecuting health care professionals who seek personal enrichment by stealing from a taxpayer-funded program," Donoghue said.

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“Fraud against both public and private health care plans is not a victimless crime—the cost of doing business is ultimately transferred to members and taxpayers alike,” FBI assistant director-in-charge William Sweeney Jr. said in a statement. 

“More importantly, prescribing medication and medical equipment to patients for the sole purpose of turning a profit is not only unethical, it’s dangerous business. Today’s indictment is a victory for the FBI and our partners, the public at large, and those in the medical community who operate within the confines of the law.”    

“When physicians boost their profits by billing federal healthcare programs for medically unnecessary services, the Office of Inspector General, along with our law enforcement partners, will thoroughly investigate such deceptive schemes,” Scott Lampert, special agent in charge at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS OIG) Office of Investigations, said.

The FBI and HHS OIG investigated the case, which was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force under the supervision of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York and the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.