by: Justin Gray Updated:
Doctors billing Medicare for dead patients – a Channel 2 Action News investigation has uncovered it’s happening here and costing taxpayers millions of dollars.
Channel 2’s Justin Gray went through a government audit and tracked down local businesses accused of billing for dead patients.
In one year Medicare paid $23 million for patients who are dead.
“In the mind of the inspector general there is no legitimate excuse for this,” the inspector general’s report said.
The inspector general singled out 251 providers out of more than 1 million nationwide found to have a high number of claims for dead patients that, “may indicate fraud, waste or abuse.”
Gray filed a Freedom of Information request to learn who the unnamed providers are, and found that eight are in the Atlanta area.
Clinical Laboratory Services in Winder, one of the singled out providers, performs blood and lab work. No one from the office would return Gray’s calls.
“If you’re getting a blood test, you should be alive. There’s absolutely no excuse to have blood tests on dead people,” David Williams, with the Taxpayer Protection Alliance, said.
Two doctors who work at the same Athens oncology practice, University Cancer and Blood Center, were also on the list.
“There’s absolutely no way a doctor doesn’t know if his patient is alive or dead,” Williams said.
A spokeswoman for the doctors said, “UCBC has zero tolerance for billing impropriety.”
She said the practice reported a pharmacist to police last month for alleged improper purchases, and “We do not yet know whether this employee’s actions are part of the October 2013 report.”
Atlanta Oxygen,;Care Medical of Gainesville; Optimum Health Management in Lawrenceville; Professional Medical Home Healthcare in Stone Mountain; and Carmichaels in Monroe all had more than 100 attempted claims for dead patients in 2011. They all rent medical equipment like oxygen, beds and wheelchairs.
Bill Cheek said at Carmichaels they do sometimes bill for the dead. He said he only finds out a patient has died if Medicare or the family tell him.
“It’s something that’s unavoidable in our industry,” Cheek said.
Jason Rogers of Care Medical said they even scour obituaries to find dead patients.
“We do try to read as many of the obituaries as we can and try to check it against our system, but it’s impractical to catch everybody that way,” Rogers said.
Both companies said they pay back any overbilling, but government auditors still have concerns.
“We think it’s a real high indicator of potential fraud, waste or abuse,” the inspector general’s report said.
Channel 2 Action News has learned that Medicare does not investigate providers who file high numbers of claims for the dead. The policy is just to reject the claims.
The inspector general said that needs to change.