L.A. CLINICS: Investigation Continues Into Fraudulent Billing
"A doctor's allegedly fraudulent practice of paying people to recruit children for blood and gynecological tests may be a widespread practice, particularly in poor neighborhoods," the Long Beach Press-Telegram reports. Law enforcement authorities announced yesterday that Paramount Medical Center outside Los Angeles recruited children as young as nine years old for unnecessary medical exams in exchange for rewards -- condoms, birth control pills and up to $10 cash (see CHL, 9/23). Residents of Los Angeles county housing projects "said recruiting vans cruise low-income areas, luring children to clinics" for unnecessary tests which are subsequently submitted to Medi-Cal for reimbursement. The children are offered "money, sneakers and pagers." Two clinics are under investigation for Medi-Cal fraud, both run by Dr. Candace Chang -- Paramount Medical Clinic and the United Service Care Medical Group (Stewart/Heald/Aurelio, 9/24). However, Malcolm Venolia, a supervisor of the state Department of Justice's Medi-Cal Fraud Bureau "said he believed the clinic was billing a state program known as the State Only Family Planning Program, run by the Office of Family Planning and administered by the state Department of Health Services, not Medi-Cal (Canto, AP/Contra Costa Times, 9/24). David Haxton, a deputy in the state Attorney General's office also disputes the claim of improper Medi-Cal billing, but "investigators still have thousands of records to sort through."
Never Take Sneakers From ...
The Press-Telegram interviewed several teenagers who attested to the allegations that a recruiter transported the children between Paramount and their homes after determining that the children had Medi-Cal coverage. A doctor with space in the same complex "said he often arrived to find 'homeless people with all their belongings and drug addicts, sometimes as many as 50,' sleeping outside of the clinic." Fil Tomie, a medical assistant at Chang's United Services clinic denied the allegations and asserted that Chang "mostly does pap smears," court-ordered HIV tests and provides free exams to patients without the means to afford medical care. The Press-Telegram notes that the use of patient recruiters may be more prevalent than expected. One woman said she recruited dental patients for a practice in Buena Park. "If I take five kids, each one of them gets $25 and I get $25 for each one I take in" (9/24).