Odd Treatments Bring a Few Doctors Medicare Millions
Surgeon billed for $3.7M—without doing surgery, WSJ finds
By Matt Cantor, Newser User
Posted Jun 10, 2014 11:25 AM CDT
The Wall Street Journal finds some doctors billing quite a bit for non-standard procedures.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – A rare heart treatment involving strapping patients to a bed using large cuffs that promote blood flow is rarely used by America's cardiologists; the Cleveland Clinic's 141 cardiologists used it on just six patients last year. But one LA internist used it on nearly all his 615 Medicare patients in 2012—bringing his practice $2.3 million from Medicare. Dr. Ronald Weaver is rarely even at his clinic, sources tell the Wall Street Journal; instead, they say it's run largely by someone who isn't a doctor. Employees are told to tell patients: "We are the experts at getting Medicare to pay when others wouldn't be able to."

In 2012, some 2,300 health care providers received at least $500,000 for just one procedure, the Journal reports. Though that's not "inherently wrong," Weaver is just one of several doctors profiled by the paper who have used similarly uncommon procedures and sent the government giant bills. A Massachusetts doctor performed an unusual urological procedure 1,757 times in 2012; other urologists who billed Medicare for the same treatment used it an average of 38 times. A dermatologist in Florida scored $2.41 million for a treatment only two other doctors billed for. And an orthopedic surgeon got $3.7 million without doing any surgery; instead, he chiefly billed Medicare for "manual therapy techniques"—essentially, massage. His cryptic response to questions on the billing: "What you see, it wasn't me." (The New York Times recently looked at how one physical therapist billed Medicare for $4 million.)

More From Newser
My Take on This Story
To report an error on this story,
notify our editors.
Odd Treatments Bring a Few Doctors Medicare Millions is...
Show results without voting
You Might Like
Showing 3 of 21 comments
Paul Krantz
Jun 12, 2014 6:02 PM CDT
Why is this surprising? The for-profit medical industry is rewarded for gaming the system because the Medicare program is hamstrung by policies set by Congress. Just allowing negotiation with drug providers would garner billions in savings. (Sorry, I don't know how to embed a link here, but just google it.) There are also issues around "care" provided when death is iminent (sp?). Doctors can get rich providing unhelpful therapies to patients in their final months or weeks. This is also part of the reason the US pays SO MUCH MORE for health care compared to almost all of our democratic friends.
Jun 11, 2014 2:40 PM CDT
There are doctors who are sheisters and trying to bill for whatever they can. That's what they were trying to do with me but I called insurance and I said that's wrong and change the doctor.
Jun 10, 2014 10:50 PM CDT
Government run programs - like eating soup with a knitting needle.