An Ohio cardiologist was sentenced to 20 years in prison after ordering patients to undergo unnecessary medical procedures. Dr. Harry Persaud was convicted of subjecting patients to seek procedures like open heart surgery when it was unneeded. Persaud made over $5.6 million from Medicare and private insurance companies.
The cardiologist from Westlake, Ohio, was found guilty of health care fraud, making false statements regarding health care matters, and money laundering. This all took place between 2006 and 2012 after Persaud over-billed insurance companies and schemed the Medicare system. He was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison on December 18, Cleveland reports.
Dr. Persaud hasn’t practiced medicine since 2012. He may lose his medical license and be required to repay insurance companies for the fraud he committed. A number of patients have also sued the cardiologist.
Convicted doctor in case of unnecessary tests and surgeries blames Obamacare https://t.co/aC4RW6Tx2Q
— Anchor Newsreader (@AnchorEnglish) December 23, 2015
FBI supervisory special agent Justin Shammot in Cleveland’s office told The Guardian that this is the “worst kind of health care fraud you can have and is the toughest I’ve seen — and I’ve seen some really bad stuff.”
The special agent said that what’s disturbing about the case is the patients’ trust being violated. They think they’re being given valid medical advice from someone looking out for their best interests when it comes to their health.
According to the FBI, Persaud scammed patients by falsifying diagnostic exams to justify the use of catheters and had nuclear stress tests performed unnecessarily. There was also a false reporting on some patients pertaining to blockages. There were some incidences in which patients were repeatedly injected with radioactive material for heart tests they didn’t really need. Persaud declared that the results proved they needed surgery. Other patients were ordered bypass operations or stents for imaginary problems, the FBI reported.
Dr. Persaud isn’t in custody, but a date is pending from the Federal Bureau of Prisons to begin his incarceration.
In spite of the cardiologist’s alleged actions, he denies any wrongdoing.
“I made some billing errors, but I did not do anything wrong, medically. I never put in a stent or did a procedure that I did not think was necessary. I am appealing the conviction and sentence,” Persaud said.
Shammot said what the convicted doctor did was dangerous to his patients.
“These procedures do have consequences,” Shammot said. “When they are appropriate, the risks are outweighed by the benefits, but [if] you are performing nuclear stress tests and giving patients stents that were not medically necessary … there are all kinds of risks associated with these, including taking medications for the rest of your life.”
One woman who testified against the doctor who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for his actions believes that her husband died as a result of a procedure Dr. Persaud had him undergo. She said an unnecessary stent was put in his heart and acted as a “ticking time bomb” on his health.
The FBI and the Department of Justice investigated Dr Persaud’s practices. Persaud has his own private practice, but had privileges at three hospitals in the Westlake area, which is a suburb of Cleveland.
Things appeared suspicious when a doctor noticed some test results and referrals for more procedures. Something was off about them and that’s when the crimes were picked up.
“He had convinced his patients to really trust him and he led them to believe that if they had not had these services that it’s likely that they could possibly die,” Shammot said.
Victims of Dr. Persaud’s fraudulent practices were patients who ranged in age from their 40s to their 80s; some were in their 90s. His criminal activities affect the faith many have in the medical profession.
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