No health care reform can stop a determined fraudster

Twice in my career, I chaired projects to write ethics codes. Once for the company I worked for, once for the trade group to which it belonged. But I always thought ethical people don’t need a code of ethics, while crooks and cheaters don’t care whether you have one.

Today, I was on the other end of the microphone, so to speak, being interviewed by a large medical journal on what the heck is going on with the American health care system. More on that in a future post. But it does strike me that no matter how they sort out pre-existing conditions, invisible risk pools, tax credits, and Medicaid allotments, certain things won’t change.

For instance, quacks — crooked or incompetent doctors. Like all professions, medicine encompasses a range of talent. Sometimes a real outlier gets through the system.

Case in point: Dr. Farad Fata. This outlier was orbiting Pluto on the ethics front. He’s servicing a 45-year federal sentence for fraud, conspiracy, and money laundering. Besides cheating Medicare to the tune of $35 million, he was also a horrible, cruel quack. He made up cancer diagnoses and gave people expensive, Medicare-reimbursed treatments. Some lost teeth and bone density because of the quackery. Others had nerve damage, even lost limbs. If Fata ever read the Medical Code of Ethics, he didn’t understand it or he ignored it.

He got away with it for seven years.

The FBI guy who set in motion the effort to stop him, Detroit Special Agent Bryan Drake is a finalist in this year’s Service to America Medals program. He says the tip-off came not from big-data analysis, but rather from a whistleblower.

Drake was joined by Health and Human Services inspector general staff member Abhijit Dixit. They formed a larger team from the FBI, HHS and Justice Department attorneys.

The write-up at the Partnership for Public Service details more about the investigation, arrest and trial. My interview with Drake details the intensity of his pursuit and the depth of his outrage.

The Senate, according to its majority leader, is supposed to have a vote on its version of health care reform before July 4. A quick read of the 132-page House bill, the American Health Care Act, makes it clear why they call this sausage-making (save yourself: Read this Kaiser Family Foundation summary). Nevermind the Affordable Care Act and its 2,000 pages.

Congress will either wreck or perfect the health care system, depending on your point of view. Contrast all that shrewd politicking with the clear purpose of career feds working to stop a manifest evil. It’s interviews like this that keep me going.

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