Saturday, May 31, 2008

Stupid Provider Tricks (Coast to Coast)

[Welcome Industry Radar readers!]
Over the past three and a half years, we've chronicled the "exploits" of agents, carriers and patients. It seems, though, that providers are not exactly immune to outrageous games, either.
First up, we learn that the UCLA Medical Center has been bumping legitimate, deserving, long-suffering American organ transplant candidates in favor of yakuza, members of Japanese organized crime groups. The surgeries, conducted between 2000 and 2004, took place while there was a distinct shortage of qualified organs, exacerbating an already-critical problem.
Although the physicians claim not to have known of the, er, character of their erstwhile patients, they also aver that "they do not make moral judgments about patients and treat them based on their medical need."
On the other side of flyover country, the Washington Post reports that "surgeons across the country receive trips, meals and consulting deals from artificial-hip and -knee makers." Isn't that the textbook definition of "conflict of interest?"
Turns out, the suppliers of various joint-replacement gizmo's [ed: must you use technical medical industry jargon?] allegedly paid certain surgeons to use their equipment. Manufacturers advocates counter that "the arrangement allows doctors and medical-supply companies to collaborate, paving the way for important technology advances in hip and knee replacements."
In the event, a federal investigation was launched to look into this kickback scheme. A settlement has apparently been reached, and the facts are beginning to come to light. In what may be a happy ending (of sorts), "(f)our of the world's top companies last year agreed to pay a combined $311 million to settle a federal probe into whether the manufacturers paid kickbacks to doctors to get them to recommend their products."
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