Pak-American Doctor To Pay $750,000 To Resolve False Claims Act Allegations
WASHINGTON DC: A Pakistani-American doctor Mubashar Choudry has agreed to pay 750,000 dollars to resolve False Claims Act allegations against his medical group that they knowingly billed Medicare and TRICARE for claims, in violations of the Anti-Kickback Statue, the U.S. department of Justice announced.
Dr Mubashar Choudry, who is known to be close to PM Imran Khan, former presidents Pervez Musharraf and Asif Zardari; works as a cardiologist in the US. He runs three medical institutes: Washington Cardiovascular Institute, Advanced Vascular Resources, and Washington Vascular Institute.
“Providing impermissible remuneration to induce patient referrals undermines government health care programs,” said Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt of the Department of Justice’s Civil Division.
“Patients are entitled to expect that the medical testing they receive and any resulting referral decision are free of financial inducements to the referring physician that may inappropriately impact the physician’s judgment.”
The AKS prohibits the knowing and willful payment of any remuneration to induce the referral of services or items that are paid for by a federal healthcare program, such as Medicare and TRICARE. Claims submitted to these programs in violation of the Anti-Kickback Statute may give rise to liability under the False Claims Act.
The settlement resolves allegations that, between Jan. 1, 2013 and Dec. 31, 2016, Choudry, Washington Cardiovascular Institute, Advanced Vascular Resources, and Washington Vascular Institute submitted, or caused, false claims in violation of the AKS. Specifically, the defendants allegedly induced patient referrals by providing ankle-brachial index testing on patients under agreements with the referring physicians but without collecting from the physicians the fair market value for the tests.
Ankle-brachial index testing is used to detect peripheral arterial disease, which Choudry and the practices would treat.
“Kickback schemes like the scheme alleged in this case not only call into question the integrity of individual medical decisions, but they also raise the cost of health care for all of us,” said U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur for the District of Maryland. “Patients deserve care based on a doctor’s sound medical judgment, not the doctor’s personal financial interest.”
“For four years, Dr. Choudry and associated medical practices boosted their profits by allegedly paying kickbacks to referring physicians,” said Maureen R. Dixon, Special Agent in Charge for the Office of Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services. “Along with our law enforcement partners, we will continue maintaining the integrity of these vital health programs because taxpayers deserve better.”
Interestingly, Choudry was also involved in another scam when the department of Justice fined a total of $3,340,979 to resolve claims that Engage Medical over-billed for nuclear stress tests. A press release issued by district Maryland’s Department of Justice in 2014 said, “Engage Medical and Sanjay Puri have agreed to pay $544,500; Advanced Cardiology Center and its owners Pankaj Lal, M.D., Mubashar Choudry, M.D. and Moshin Ijaz, M.D. agreed to pay $1,894,549.50; Reva Gill, M.D. and Kenilworth Internists, P.A. agreed to pay $242,204; and Sureshkumar Muttath, M.D. agreed to pay $659,726.”
It further said that the settlement was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein and Special Agent in Charge Nicholas DiGiulio, Office of Investigations, Office of Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services.
The 2014 press release also quoted US Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein as saying, “When medical providers can enrich themselves at taxpayers’ expense by falsely representing that they provided expensive procedures, the government must be vigilant in pursuing fraudulent claims. He had further stated that anyone who knowingly reports false medical billing codes to induce the government to pay more money is ‘lying, cheating and stealing’.
Wajid Ali Syed is a journalist based in Washington DC.