September 20, 2021

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Feds Slap UPMC, Guide Cardiothoracic Surgeon With Fraud Lawsuit

Subsequent a 2-12 months investigation, the US govt has submitted accommodate from the University of Pittsburgh Healthcare Center (UPMC), University of Pittsburgh Doctors (UPP), and James Luketich, MD, for billing relevant to concurrent surgical procedures performed by the extended-time chair of cardiothoracic surgical procedure.

The lawsuit alleges that UPMC “knowingly permitted” Luketich to “e-book and execute a few surgical procedures at the exact same time, to skip the surgical time outs at the outset of all those treatments, to go back again-and-forth concerning working rooms and even healthcare facility facilities while his surgical sufferers continue to be below basic anesthesia…”

UPMC, the lawsuit claims, also permitted Luketich to falsely attest that “he was with his people through the entirety of their surgical techniques or in the course of all ‘key and critical’ parts of individuals processes, and to unlawfully bill Federal government Health and fitness Gain Plans for those people strategies, all in get to enhance surgical volume, optimize UPMC and UPP’s income, and/or appease Luketich.”

These procedures violate the statutes and laws governing the defendants, including individuals that prohibit “training doctors” like Luketich from carrying out and billing the US for concurrent surgeries, the Department of Justice explained in information launch.

The Justice Division contends the defendants “knowingly submitted hundreds of materially false promises for payment” to Medicare, Medicaid, and other government programs in excess of the past 6 decades.

“The regulations prohibiting ‘concurrent surgeries’ are in spot for a motive: to secure patients and be certain they receive suitable and targeted clinical care,” Stephen R. Kaufman, Acting US Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, claimed in the release. 

According to the lawsuit, “some of Luketich’s clients were compelled to endure more surgical methods and/or prolonged healthcare facility stays as a consequence of his illegal carry out. Numerous clients developed agonizing force ulcers. A several were being diagnosed with compartment syndrome. And at minimum two experienced to go through amputations.”

The allegations ended up initially brought forward less than the federal False Promises Act’s whistleblower provisions by Jonathan D’Cunha, MD, PhD, who worked closely with Luketich from 2012 to 2019 and now chairs the office of cardiothoracic surgical treatment at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, Arizona.

The costs cited in the lawsuit include things like a few counts of violating the Bogus Statements Act, 1 depend of unjust enrichment, and one count of payment by miscalculation.

The 56-site lawsuit features a lot of circumstance illustrations and cites an October 2015 Boston World Spotlight Crew report on the basic safety of operating concurrent operations, which reportedly prompted UPMC to reevaluate its insurance policies and establish medical professionals or departments in prospective violation.

Hospital officers met with Luketich in March 2016 and devised a “approach” to ensure his availability and “compliance with concurrency rules,” it alleges, but also highlights an email that notes “ongoing troubles” with Luketich’s timetable.

“UPMC has persistently ignored or minimized issues by employees and staff members about Luketich, his hyper-fast paced agenda, his refusal to delegate surgical procedures and surgical responsibilities” and “protected him from meaningful sanction refused to curtail his surgical observe and continued to let Luketich to skirt the regulations and endanger his clients,” according to the lawsuit.

The fit notes that Luketich is a single of UPMC and UPP’s optimum resources of earnings, and that UPMC advertises him as a “everyday living-preserving pioneer” who routinely performs dramatic, final-ditch techniques on sufferers who are normally hopeless.

In response to an job interview request from theheart.org | Medscape Cardiology, a UPMC spokesperson wrote: “As the governing administration itself concedes in its criticism, quite a few of Luketich’s surgical individuals are elderly, frail, and/or really unwell. They involve the ‘hopeless’ patients…who go through from serious health issues or metastatic cancer, and/or have intensive surgical histories, and choose UPMC and Luketich when other medical professionals and healthcare providers have turned them down.”

“Dr Luketich often performs the most crucial parts of each procedure he undertakes,” the spokesperson claimed, adding that no law or regulation prohibits overlapping surgical procedures or billing for individuals surgeries, “let by yourself surgical procedures performed by teams of surgeons like all those led by Luketich.”

“The government’s claims are, relatively, based mostly on a misapplication or misinterpretation of UPMC’s inside insurance policies and [Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services] assistance, neither of which can aid a claim for fraudulent billing. UPMC and Dr Luketich prepare to vigorously protect versus the government’s statements,” the spokesperson concluded. 

The claims asserted versus the defendants are allegations only there has been no determination of liability. The governing administration is in search of three situations the total of actual damages endured as a outcome of the alleged bogus promises and/or fraud a sum of $23,331 (or the highest penalty, whichever is larger) for each bogus assert submitted by UPMC, UPP, and/or Luketich and expenditures and costs linked with the civil suit.

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