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Disagreements over medical treatments can sometimes escalate

If you go to your doctor and get a diagnosis that is for any reason difficult to accept, what is the first thing you do? For most, that first thing is to get a second opinion from another doctor. So it is understood that even the very best physicians often disagree with one another over diagnoses and other matters.

Doctors often disagree over medical treatments as well. Hyperbaric treatment is increasingly being ordered for diabetic patients, though some critics of the treatments say the measures are being overused because they wring big money out of Medicare. Unfortunately, sometimes politicians and prosecutors get involved in these types of disagreements and start making allegations of fraud, Medicare system abuse and more.

As you likely know, hyperbaric treatments involve putting patients with diabetic wounds inside pressurized chambers where they breathe pure oxygen, typically for a couple of hours several times a week. The treatments can often last a month or more.

The oxygen is believed to help heal the wounds and enable patients avoid life-diminishing limb amputations.

But the treatments come at a stiff price: about $450 per two-hour session, according to a recent news article. Hospitals are doing their best to accommodate rising demand: more than 1,200 hospitals now have hyperbaric facilities. That’s more than three times the facilities available when Medicare began reimbursing providers for the therapy back in 2002.

Medicare is apparently flagging what it considers overuse of the therapy that is not universally considered effective. The American Diabetes Association doesn’t recommend hyperbaric therapy.

We do not know how the medical community will eventually settle questions about appropriate uses of hyperbaric therapy, but we do know that in too many cases, disputes over medical treatments can evolve into allegations of wrongdoing.

The New York City law firm of Rivas Goldstein, LLP, represents doctors and group practices, diagnostic labs, home health agencies, nursing homes and other health care practitioners under investigation or being charged.