Traveling the World While “Treating” Cancer Patients

In January, federal officials unsealed a lawsuit filed under the False Claims Act stemming from fraud allegedly committed by doctors at a Melbourne, FL cancer clinic owned by the doctors’ group, Melbourne Internal Medicine Associates.  The cancer clinic allegedly submitted millions of dollars worth of fraudulent billings to Medicare.

A NY Times article published February 25, 2010 reported “Many of the accusations involve the clinic’s use of two technologically advanced cancer treatments — image-guided radiation therapy, or I.G.R.T., and intensity-modulated radiation therapy, or I.M.R.T.”  Due to the advanced nature of the treatments, specifically in regards to I.G.R.T, federal rules require the presence of radiation oncologists.

Nonetheless, according to the government, doctors at the clinic “failed to properly supervise technicians who were administering these therapies and then tried to cover up their absence.”  Interestingly, the dearth of radiation oncologists during treatment was not due to the doctors caring for other patients; say in the room next door.  In fact, two of the clinic’s doctors allegedly had been traveling the world by taking in places such as Cancun, Mexico, Seoul, South Korea, Athens, Greece, Rome, Italy and Quito, Ecuador while cancer patients were undergoing unsupervised radiation therapy.

The same NY Times article detailed the fact that the cancer center often ordered more lucrative treatments when less advanced and cheaper ones would have served just as well.  For this reason, the government alleges the doctors put patients at risk while standing to benefit from tests and radiation therapy in which they had a financial interest.

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