A disturbing matter was brought to our attention by Bloomberg, who investigated the notion that doctors who had lost their medical licenses due to misconduct were still being given money by Medicare. That’s right: doctors who broke the law or were medically negligent were being given millions of dollars after their recklessness.
According to Bloomberg, $6.5 million was given to a number of doctors in 2012 that lost their medical licenses. Their transgressions included sexual assault, gross malpractice and violations of drug prescription rules. In one particular case, a doctor was treating patients here in New Mexico and received $660,005 from Medicare, even though three years before this he was convicted of 10 felony counts of embezzling funds from his former medical institution.
There are a couple of things to take away from this story, and the first is that this is a very scary precedent for any medical system to set. Funding failed doctors or giving money to people who ignore the law will only embolden them to do it again. If they keep getting work, then the message isn’t being sent that they need to improve their behavior and treat their patients better.
The second and more obvious aspect to this story is that this clearly endangers patients, and you would think that in this technological day and age, there would be an ironclad process to identify negligent doctors and keep them from working until they prove they have reformed themselves. If anything, this story is less about the misappropriation of funds and more about a flawed medical structure that doesn’t do its best to protect patients.
Source: Crain’s Cleveland Business, “Medicare paid millions to doctors who lost medical licenses due to misconduct,” Scott Suttell, April 28, 2014