government

Cardiologist cost Medicare millions in fraud, Senate Finance Committee alleges

A report says the doctor performed nearly 600 questionable stent procedures at a Maryland hospital during a two-year period.

By Chris Silva — Posted Dec. 21, 2010

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A December Senate Finance Committee report details a situation where a cardiologist allegedly conducted questionable stent implantations that cost Medicare $3.8 million during a two-year period.

Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D, Mont.) and ranking member Charles Grassley (R, Iowa) released a report describing how patients at St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson, Md., may have received medically unnecessary stents. The report also alleged that the physician may have had inappropriate ties with a large medical device maker.

The doctor reportedly performed nearly 600 questionable procedures involving stents from 2007 to mid-2009 at St. Joseph, according to the report. It also said Abbott Labs, a global pharmaceutical and medical products firm with U.S. headquarters in Abbott Park, Ill., placed the physician, cardiologist Mark Midei, MD, on its "Project Victory" list of top stent volume cardiologists and paid for at least two social events at the doctor's home, including a barbeque and crab dinner, in 2008.

After St. Joseph barred the physician from practicing at its hospital, Abbott Labs hired him to promote and prepare safety reports on its stents in China and Japan, according to internal documents the company provided to the committee.

The senators said their investigation began as part of an inquiry into possible fraud and abuse in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. They said the report contains "alarming evidence" that patients received "unnecessary and potentially harmful stent implants time and time again."

"Doctors should not be performing invasive medical procedures patients don't need, and taxpayers certainly shouldn't be paying for these wasteful and improper implantations," Baucus said.

Dr. Midei's attorney, Stephen L. Snyder of Washington, D.C., did not return calls for comment.

St. Joseph said in a statement that it signed a settlement agreement with the federal government, which resolves an ongoing civil investigation involving "certain stent procedures performed by Dr. Mark Midei."

Additionally, the medical center signed a five-year corporate integrity agreement with the Office of Inspector General and the Dept. of Health and Human Services.

Abbott Labs said in a statement that it "doesn't condone inappropriate use of medical products or of the health care system," and that treatment of patients is "something we take very seriously." Abbott added, "Our consulting relationship with Dr. Midei ended early this year."

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