Wade Coye, Personal Injury and Car Accident Attorney
I don’t know how many people have read the recent article in the New York Times about Cardiologists, who practice at HCA Healthcare centers, doing unnecessary procedures for a profit, but I believe it is an issue that needs to be addressed.
HCA Healthcare is one of the largest for-profit hospital chains in the USA, with locations in more than 20 states. In Florida alone, there are over 75 locations, with 4 in Central Florida. According to the New York Times, this is the second time in the past 8 years that there are fraud investigations going on to determine whether or not the doctors in these hospitals are doing thousands of unneeded, and possibly dangerous, procedures, specifically in the Catheter Lab, purely for profit. They are doing these procedures with the intent of submitting to Medicare for payment.
To be honest, I find this news to be extremely disturbing, for both my clients and myself. This is a case of doctors putting their patients in danger for profit, and I am not okay with it. So far, it has seemed like the fault has come down completely on the hospital, as all of the doctors accused are still practicing in these hospitals. So my question is, who is really at fault? Is it the doctor for performing these procedures? It is the hospital for letting these procedures happen? Are the hospitals possibly encouraging these doctors to do extra procedures in an attempt to raise their bottom line? Based on what I’ve read, both the doctors and hospital are at fault, especially if one of these procedures ended in an injury to a patient.
The procedure that was most commonly abused was the implantation of a stent unnecessarily. Generally, a stent is used to open up an artery that is clogged at levels of 70% or more. It seems as if the cardiologists are performing the procedure in patients with clogging of about 40% to 50%, which is not only medically unnecessary in most cases, but also extremely dangerous. The Times presents two cases in which patients who underwent this procedure unnecessarily, suffered from punctured blood vessels, leaving them near death and in the hospital for days. One even needed to be shocked twice in order to be revived.
The difficult question facing our country now is whether or not we want our government to be able to decide what is appropriate and what is not in terms of medical care. Do you want the government involved in your healthcare decisions, or do you want to keep the decision between your doctor and yourself? How is the system impacted by doctor’s incentives to perform certain procedures, instead of taking a less invasive course of treatment? Should every single person, have exactly the same healthcare? The truth is, I don’t have the answer to any or all of these questions, but what I do have are answers about how to deal with a doctor that has been negligent in your treatment.
While I hope this isn’t something that begins a trend of negligent care in the healthcare system for the sake of money, it is important to know how the law protects you as a patient. The first question you need to ask yourself is how well you know and trust your doctor. If you don’t know them too well, there is no harm in getting a second opinion to see if the diagnoses match up, before making any decisions. If you’ve already undergone a procedure, were injured by the doctor’s negligence in the process, and don’t think the procedure was necessary in the first place, then the next question you should ask is what type of case you have. Is it medical malpractice or personal injury, or could it be both? If you think you have a case, what is going to happen? Well, Florida law has made this part a little tricky. If you’ve been injured at the hand of someone else’s negligence, then you always have a personal injury case; what aren’t guaranteed are the results.
It is important to note that there is a 2-year statute of limitation, or the time in which you can file a lawsuit of this kind. This may seem like a long time, but the pre-suit process for a case like this can take quite a while, which may challenges the deadlines set. Florida statute has also placed a cap on non-economic damages, or the compensation you can receive for things like pain and suffering, to between $500,000 and $1.5 million. This inadvertently creates a target group for fraud like this within the poor and elderly, because they will have little to be compensated for in economic damages, like lost wages.
So are these doctors taking advantage of the trust that a patient places in their judgment? Are there ways that we can protect ourselves from the decisions of the doctors trying to take advantage of the system? What can we do if we fall victim to their ploy? The answer is, be invested in your medical health and pay attention to the suggestions of your doctors. Do your research before you make any big decisions. And, finally, if it happens anyway, have the sense to address it, by finding a lawyer immediately, so you have the best opportunity to build a successful case.
To read the hospital’s rebuttal to the claims made in the New York Times article, click here.
If you or a loved one has been injured at the hands of a doctor trying to make money by doing unneeded procedures, or by their negligence alone, you may have a personal injury case. Contact the experienced personal injury attorneys, here at the Coye Law Firm, for a free consultation.