Friday, February 18, 2011

Health-Care Fraud Sweep Nets 114

FEBRUARY 17, 2011
Health-Care Fraud Sweep Nets 114
Wall Street Journal

A health-care crime sweep Thursday morning netted 114 defendants on charges related to Medicare fraud, in what Attorney General Eric Holder called the largest such takedown in U.S. history.

The defendants—charged in nine metropolitan areas including Los Angeles, Brooklyn, Detroit and Miami—were allegedly involved in more than 40 schemes, almost all of which were unrelated to one another, officials said. Altogether, the schemes attempted to defraud the government of more than $240 million, according to law enforcement officials.

Several of the cases appear to involve doctors or other health-care practitioners acting alone or with few alleged co-conspirators. One of these, Brooklyn physical therapist Aleksandr Kharkover, had been featured in a December Wall Street Journal article on possible financial abuse involving physical therapy, a growing area of Medicare fraud.

Mr. Kharkover, accused of being involved in one of at least three separate alleged physical-therapy rings broken up this morning, billed Medicare about $11.9 million from January 2005 through July 2010, according to the indictment. During that time period, Medicare paid out $7.3 million, according to a person familiar with the investigation. He is accused of having billed for physical-therapy services that were never performed and weren't medically necessary.

Mr. Kharkover's lawyer, Montell Figgins, said his client "looks forward to his day in court where he'll be able to set the record straight. Mr. Kharkover is a good man and a well-respected doctor."

The publisher of The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones & Co., filed court papers last month to overturn a court injunction that blocks the public from seeing the Medicare billing records of individual doctors.

In 1979, citing privacy rights, the American Medical Association won a suit against the government to keep secret the amounts of money individual doctors get paid by Medicare. The AMA argued that releasing the information would violate physicians' rights to privacy. The court's ruling still stands...

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