Don’t you love it when a doctor pays a million plus in fines, yet won’t admit he did anything wrong?
Why would he pay it then?
Last week, osteopath Brian Lemper, a Las Vegas anesthesiologist and pain management physician, agreed to pay $1.25 million to settle a complaint that he was overcharging two federal insurance plans for surgeries and surgical supplies and thus defrauding the government.
The civil complaint focused on his overcharges for patients who were covered by two federal government insurance programs, one for the military and retired military and the other for other federal employees.
For nearly three years between 2004 and 2007, the government says he defrauded the two programs by overcharging an unidentified number of patients by $629,395. He settled for double that amount. Had it gone to court and the government won, the fine could have been triple that plus civil penalties.
Lemper’s name may sound familiar because he is one of the doctors who received grand jury subpoenas in 2005 in the ongoing investigation into whether certain local doctors and lawyers were conspiring to run up medical costs to obtain higher insurance payments in personal injury cases.
He isn’t among the first tier of potential targets, but he certainly is in the second tier, multiple sources said.
The settlement spells out that Lemper is not immune from prosecution for tax matters or criminal matters.
The Nevada State Board of Osteopathic Medicine also probably will look at whether any discipline is merited.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Roger Wenthe, who handled the Lemper case, inserted language saying, if the doctor files bankruptcy before paying the fine, then the government will put in a claim for the full $5.3 million, the maximum possible. Wenthe apparently doesn’t trust Lemper.
Restrictions were placed on Lemper in connection with his billing for the two federal programs, plus Medicare and Medicaid.
I first heard Lemper’s name in 2005 when he was identified as the doctor who arranged for Cynthia Johnson to see Dr. Mark Kabins for treatment after she was rear-ended by a government prosecutor. Her personal injury lawsuit was the first public indication the government was investigating allegations of a doctor/lawyer conspiracy.
Three men have been charged in the investigation: lawyer Noel Gage, Kabins and self-professed medical consultant Howard Awand.
When Gage was tried in 2008, neurosurgeon Ben Venger testified on behalf of the government that Awand worked with doctors including Kabins, Lemper, Mark Kraft, Derek Duke, Michael Prater, Patrick McNulty, Thomas Dunn and the other cooperating witness, John Thalgott.
Gage and Kabins both accepted plea agreements, and none of the other doctors has been charged with anything.
Awand, accused of being the mastermind, is in prison following his conviction in the fraud case and in a separate tax fraud case. His prison time will be extended because he was held in contempt after he refused to testify before the grand jury about a handful of attorneys.
Besides Gage, the other attorneys identified by Venger include Robert Eglet, Robert Vannah and Robert Cottle. Other attorneys also received subpoenas in 2005.
Eglet was just honored by Lawyers USA, an online publication, as a “Lawyer of the Year” for winning a $505 million verdict related to the hepatitis outbreak. He sued the manufacturer of the vial containing the anesthesia for selling vials too large for one use, making possible contamination easier.
Lemper’s nonadmission that he has been overcharging insured military and federal employees probably won’t do much to attract new patients.
If you have a choice, who wants a greedy and expensive doc dumb enough to overcharge the federal government?
Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. E-mail her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0275. She also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/morrison.