Far Too “Friendly Physician” To Plead Guilty In $60 Million Healthcare Fraud. Will Murder Charges Follow?
In what’s being reported in the popular press as a $60 million healthcare fraud scheme, a Texas physician, Charles R. Leach, M.D., has agreed to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud. The feds charged 16 people in the overall scheme. Leach is the fourth defendant to plead guilty.
The scheme involved a now out of business hospice, Novus, in Frisco, Texas. The facility, which was controlled by Bradley Harris, an accountant, and his wife (they are both among the defendants), is alleged to have engaged in a sickening business model: overmedicating hospice patients to death to make room for more profit.
It’s easy for us to write off leeches like Leach as “sick” or simply criminal. But, there’s a deeper lesson here for those not nearly as twisted, even those simply negligent or even just over-trusting.
It appears as if Leach acted as a way-too-“friendly-physician,” apparently abstaining from exercising medical judgment in favor of his CPA master.
According to an article in the Dallas Morning News, Leach’s plea agreement includes an admission that he signed prescription forms in advance and in bulk in order to allow other conspirators to fill them in. Prosecutors allege that co-conspirators used those prescriptions to obtain controlled substances which were then used in high doses to kill patients.
I’m certainly not saying that all non-physicians running healthcare businesses are trying to wring as much profit out of their operations as the feds allege the Harrises were, but many physicians fall victim to far less morally challenged yet still illegal “rent a license” schemes.
These range from serving as the “medical director” of beautician owned and operated “medical spas,” to fronting as the physician purportedly running a medical practice managed by, but actually completely controlled by, guys and gals in suits who couldn’t distinguish between a stethoscope and Streptococcus, to paid-per-prescription prescribing of compounded pain creams to TriCare patients via phone calls forwarded and filtered by operators “standing by now to take your calls.”
Additionally, as pressure builds on insurers, expect them to begin their own investigations. Almost all health insurance carriers and large managed care payors have their own, internal investigations office. Often staffed with former governmental investigators, they seek to find ways to legally not pay, and recoup past payments, based on underlying claims violations. They often then tip off the feds and local authorities.
How many millions, or even billions, are conceivably at play from what otherwise appear to be "legal" friendly physician practice entities associated with large national or regional lay-owned/controlled "medical groups?"
What’s your medical license worth? Leach, who practiced for close to four decades, surrendered his. His sentencing was set for September 11th but the U.S. Attorney's web-site was silent as to him in its weekly round-up of sentencing reports. Although I assume that he’ll soon be surrendering his freedom, too, it's also safe to assume that he's been given a delay in sentencing while he flips on his alleged co-conspirators.
Vet every deal. Then vet it again.