The federal government recently completed an investigation of a podiatrist and charged him with over 30 counts of healthcare fraud and identify theft. Generally, such allegations can lead to a five-year prison sentence. In this instance, the government is not recommending jail time. Instead, the government has recommended a sentence that includes probation and a fine.
Why isn’t the government pushing for a more severe penalty? According to a piece in the Texarkana Gazette, the physician played an “instrumental” role in uncovering a larger health-related scheme. The government is keeping the details of the scheme quiet, but it appears to involve the use of a marketing strategy by a laboratory to encourage physicians to order unnecessary laboratory tests.
The government has stated it expects to recoup millions from the larger scheme upon the completion of the current investigation.
What are the penalties? As noted above, the government is seeking a fine and probationary period for the physician. The fine is currently set at $157,660. This amount is an estimation of the podiatrist’s alleged fraudulent earnings. It is also important to note that probation is still a significant penalty that will impact his ability to practice medicine in the future. Thus far, at least two states are looking to revoke the physician’s certification to practice.
The agreement with the deal results in a criminal conviction. As such, the physician will need to report that he has a criminal record on applications for employment or housing.
How can physicians avoid a similar fate? This provides an example for any physician currently under investigation for healthcare fraud. The government may attempt to negotiate a deal that, at first glance, appears promising. It is important to carefully review the implications of the deal before agreeing. An attorney can help to better ensure there are not any surprises after you agree to such a deal.