Medicare Fraud Horror: Cancer Doctor Indicted for Billing Unnecessary Chemo

Michigan oncologist Farid Fata allegedly squeezed profits out of patients by prescribing unneeded treatments and inventing diagnoses

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Undergoing chemotherapy when you have cancer can be a terrible experience. Undergoing chemotherapy unnecessarily when you don’t have cancer is worse.

That’s what happened to some patients of a Detroit-area oncologist, according to federal investigators, who say the physician netted millions of dollars from Medicare by needlessly treating people for various ailments, including cancer. Indicted Wednesday on a charge of Medicare fraud, Dr. Farid Fata is being held in a Detroit jail on $9 million bond.

“We have been trained to trust doctors with our lives,” says Barbara McQuade, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, who is helping prosecute Fata. “When you see a case like this, it’s startling.”

The Fata case, which is being investigated and prosecuted under the direction of a task force run jointly by the federal departments of Justice and Health and Human Services, is highly unusual. Typical Medicare fraud cases involve health care providers billing the government for services that were never delivered. Some fraudulent providers buy Medicare ID numbers on the street. Others pad billings to increase profits or procure medications to sell illegally. Many are found out when federal investigators spot anomalies in their billings. But Fata appears to have been charged after whistleblowers approached federal authorities with information that he was potentially injuring patients just to up profits. McQuade, whose office has prosecuted numerous Medicare fraud cases in Detroit, says she’s seen lots of schemes but “nothing as egregious as this.”

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According to a criminal complaint filed on August 6 and based on an investigation by the FBI, Fata routinely prescribed chemotherapy and other drastic medical interventions for patients who were either healthy, or ill but in need of alternate treatments. He did so purely to increase his own income, according to prosecutors, who say Fata billed Medicare for some $150 million in services between August 2010 and July 2013, some of it fraudluently. The complaint, based on interviews with several nurse practitioners, medical assistants and an oncologist who worked for Fata, reads like a horror novel.

The oncologist told the FBI of one patient who received chemotherapy under Fata’s care, even though the patient was in remission. The oncologist advised the patient to get a second opinion and he or she never returned to see Fata. The oncologist also told the FBI that Fata ordered chemotherapy for all of his end-of-life patients, even if the treatment would not improve or extend their lives. The oncologist told the FBI, “no other physician would do this and would let the patient die in peace.” The oncologist also said Fata sometimes issued patients life-long prescriptions of drug treatment for low platelet conditions, without informing patients that surgery was a treatment alternative to years of drug therapy. The oncologist also told the FBI that many of Fata’s patients received intravenous immunoglobulin therapy even though they did not need it. A nurse practitioner who worked for Fata examined charts for 40 patients undergoing this treatment and found that 38 did not need it at all.

The criminal complaint also outlines accusations that Fata arranged for foreign doctors, who might have been unlicensed to practice medicine in the U.S., to treat patients in his multiple clinic locations. “Dr. Fata sees the patient only for 2-3 minutes. The patients frequently complain about it,” states the complaint. In even more egregious cases, investigators say Fata falsified cancer diagnoses in order to justify—and receive payment for—positron emission tomography (PET) scans, which include radiation. These diagnoses, say investigators, are “written in the chart purely to justify the fraudulent billing to the insurance company.”

(MORE: The Backstory Behind a Hospital Bill)

Incredibly, the complaint gets worse. Investigators said one patient fell and hit his head at one of Fata’s clinics. But before sending the patient to the hospital for treatment, Fata allegedly directed an employee to give the patient chemotherapy. “The patient later died from his head injury,” according to the complaint.

Fata’s lawyer, Christopher Andreoff, says the doctor has no prior criminal record and “is devastated” by the accusations.

“His entire medical practice and his treatment of patients has come to a complete standstill,” says Andreoff. “His liquid assets are frozen and he’s not going to be able to pay payroll.” The FBI investigation and indictment “came out of the dark like a bad thunderstorm,” he added.

According to the Detroit Free Press, Fata could face 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted. McQuade says the investigation is ongoing. No trial date has been set, but Andreoff says he expects prosecutors to provide more information to Fata’s defense team, including the names of current and former Fata employees who spoke to the FBI.

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23 comments
JefferyBerz
JefferyBerz

My dad died under the care of Fata. I hope he spends his life in prison. Fata has hurt so many patients and their families.

loutillman27
loutillman27

Welcome to Gov care . Take note that the doctor was being funded and overseen by MEDICARE and MEDICAID.
Other PRIVATE insurances would NOT  pay for these invalid services.
Medicare DID PAY FOR THE UNNECESSARY TREATMENTS-because they only check 2% of the charts /bills sent to them .
They are negligent  ,socialized  mess of an institution. They have lost billions to false clinics -most not having ANY tie to a ANY real doctor at all. So -don't fear your doctor -fear your lazy incompetent Government . Their medicine will match their standard for record keeping-

watermelonpunch
watermelonpunch

@loutillman27Private health insurance companies get frauded too.  But they don't need to report it to anyone, they just pass on the loss by higher premiums paid by the customers.

tattletale
tattletale like.author.displayName 1 Like

Men like this have no integrity, but I blame Medicare for much of this catastrophe. Here is a little known law that should scare the hell out of Medicare enrollees. The Stark Law was written to specifically keep physician ownership out of entities they refer to. Physician ownership of places like chemo therapy clinics, when you are a sleazy oncologist, is a recipe for fraud. The Stark Law prevent physician ownership of MRI machines, physical therapy, durable medical equipment, prosthetics, orthotics, and a few others I can not recall right now. The proof is out there, when physicians own the entities they prescribe to, there is going to be abuse and over use. Here is my prediction for the next headline, "vascular surgeons that have ownership of prosthetic clinics show dramatic increase of limb amputations"   The Stark Law need to be enforced with vigor with its original intent intact. 

loutillman27
loutillman27

@tattletale I agree with that and I am a doctor.
But the real problem is medicare /medicaid workers do not check the  bills sent to them (and then end up supporting and fueling fraud )  They reveiew only 2%  of the charts! That's failure .
Blue cross was not funding this mess-medicare was.
Private insurers are very attentive to billing and resist fraud as they have a business to keep.
Gov workers/systems  have nothing to lose-they can be as negligent as can be and the public keeps supporting them. The vast majority of medical fraud is not done by doctors at all -but by outsiders. Look  up a pie chart of medical fraud ( Google it please ) .
By lowering reimbursements to honest doctors-in the attempt to "stop the fraud " you now get the criminals who stay on in the business . We encourage smart students to go to other fields where one isn't dying early from stress and now poor pay.
The people's greed for "free care"(while they self induce disease through greedy excessive styles-obesity , drinking ,doping etc ) will leave them right were they belong-in big trouble.

LeighMcFarlandSarfati
LeighMcFarlandSarfati

This man treated my mom for one year. She died on January 24th of this year. We trusted him with her life. He lives a mere ten minutes from my family and I drive by his home every day on the way to work. Words cannot express how unbelievably painful this is for all of us impacted.

bruce.scheer
bruce.scheer like.author.displayName 1 Like

Makes you appreciate whistle blowers! 

BabuG.Ranganathan
BabuG.Ranganathan

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When taking aloe vera during chemotherapy, healthy cells are able to utilize the ingredients in aloe vera for protection against the debilitating effects of chemo, which results in the chemo destroying mainly the cancer cells while leaving the healthy cells alone.


Babu G. Ranganathan
B.A. Bible/Biology

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Babu G. Ranganathan
B.A. Bible/Biology

john_rambo
john_rambo

Doctors in America are greedy.

loutillman27
loutillman27

@john_rambo  The medicare /Gov system is incompetent, greedy  and lazy. They review 2% of the medical claims and take vacation & early retirement.
Without Gov money and approval -he never could have done this .
No private insurer fueled this fraud  because they refused to buy these treatments. They have a business to run !
The American people have become  greedy with  self indulgence -overeating to obesity,voting in dope ,drinking their wine  -regardless of the self induced cancer warnings. They have an excessive  lifestyle and want "free care" (discounted service off another's hard labor and toil .Yes ,there is a reason YOU didn't go to medical school ! )
Well ,they are going to get just what they have asked for -incompetence in regards to health care . And that lazy service brings death with it.
In medicine ,Americans have shortchanged themselves . They don't want to work to pay for their doctors to do the same  and now they aren't going to have them.

watermelonpunch
watermelonpunch

@loutillman27@john_ramboCould it be that they only review 2% of the claims because the administrative people are understaffed?

You can save a few dollars by not buying a lock for your bike.  But don't be surprised if it's stolen pretty quickly.
If you send out an ice cream truck into a neighborhood to sell ice cream, it's not going to matter how hot it is, or how many children are at the ball field if the truck is not stocked with any ice cream, it won't be selling any.

IllustriaFortunato
IllustriaFortunato

@loutillman27 @john_rambo

"No private insurer fueled this fraud  because they refused to buy these treatments. They have a business to run ! "

Please post a link/source on private insurers "refusing to buy" treatments. My sister is  just one example. $120,000 paid to him by Aetna. I attended a support group of 1000 people on Wednesday, and did not meet one Medicare family. All private insurers. He practiced in one of the wealthiest counties in the state of Michigan.

watermelonpunch
watermelonpunch

@IllustriaFortunato@loutillman27@john_rambo 

Exactly.  A few years ago someone I knew had a simply awful failed and incomplete root canal procedure, for which the dentist billed his private dental insurance about $1,000 and then said that it didn't cover anything more, and they wouldn't finish the work, or make the cap.  I prodded the wronged party to pursue the matter but he didn't think it would be worth the cost, and his dental insurance company just treated it like he'd used up his policy then that was that.  They didn't care about the patient either I guess.  I was convinced, judging by the billing & the shoddy treatment & explanations, that this dentist was either egregiously inept or just scamming dental insurance without regard to patients' dental health.  

Sure enough, less than 2 years later, the dentist in question was caught for Medicaid fraud and a whole host of dental regulations like having uncertified and unqualified workers perform procedures they shouldn't have been. 

Obviously it wasn't just Medicaid this dentist was frauding.  OBVIOUSLY.

The difference is that Medicaid and Medicare has to be open about it.  When it's found to be Medicaid fraud, it becomes public information and the offending parties go to prison.  (In the case of the dentist I'm talking about, he was sentenced to 2 years in prison.)

The private insurance companies can just write off the losses, pass the cost onto the customers, and keep quiet about it, and the health care providers go about their business.


ShawnArscott
ShawnArscott

The use of chemotherapy is criminal to begin with. There is growing evidence that chemotherapy is ineffective and causes more harm than good. Wait until people understand this and the law suits begin. If I were a Doctor using chemotherapy, I would start looking for other ways to treat cancer fast! The lies are catching up.

LilMissNihilist
LilMissNihilist like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

He should be given LIFE imprisonment for this.

consumer_101
consumer_101

Just being doctor, Politician or priest doesn't make a person good or bad.  It is the individual who makes the difference. 

One other point - why doctors are paid extra per treatment?  This is recipe for abuse and temptation for unethical person.  Does any one teach ethics anywhere in school or home or as a society?  

loutillman27
loutillman27

@consumer_101  Dr's are paid per treatment like a plumber is paid for each sink repair.
You do not own another individual's education -you did not work 20 years for that education. You cannot force doctors to work for plumbers pay ( night school three times/ week )
We are paid 27 dollars in Rhode island for a dermatology  visit . You think that's not cheap enough? .

That's why PA's are delivering care -because your pay does not meet the education and responsibilities you demand . Keep blaming doctors-you wont have any.

The most unethical event here is the Gov workers/systems who have FUNDED fraud ,year in and year out.
Mostly to non -doctors at the tune of billions in waste.
What ethics are those to have a Gov program that cannot review its own claims ? They look at 2% of their charts. Thats why they didnt deny these excess treatments .
Remember this -doctors working Blue Cross were NOT involved in this scam.  A Medicare doctor was because one MUST have a partner in crime to get away with mass fraud .
The other criminal is the Government and the people who vote it in and the crime is negligence at all costs...negligence. And negligence kills.

YavuzAlavi
YavuzAlavi

WOW! He should be jailed for life and charged with homicide! This doctor makes me sick! $150M in fraud and only $250k fine, I hope once they convict him, he loses it all in civil suits brought on by former patients who suffered chemo needlessly.

JaneYorker
JaneYorker

His punishment should be to get chemotherapy will in prison, and those other unneeded treatments he imposed upon patients.

Denesius
Denesius like.author.displayName 1 Like

What a nice deal: He made $150 million off of Medicare, but may get 10 years in jail (reduced to 4 or 5 based on good behaviour) and a $250,000 fine.  Where do I sign up?

OldDoc
OldDoc

@Denesius Go to some foreign company, pay for your degree, and return. Foreign MDs often are recognised in the US without further testing.

spanish
spanish

You are wrong...only in US you have to pay for your degree, in most European countries the state will pay for most of your education while on Med School...and yes foreing trained docs have to undergo USMLE test to validate their degrees here and to your knowledge we usually get far better scores on those tests than most US graduates which really doesnt mean much but it is interesting, dont you think so?