Case of 79-year-old doctor illustrates need for caution when accepting payments

The federal trial of a 79-year-old New Jersey physician charged in connection with a healthcare kickback scheme serves as yet another example of federal prosecutors’ aggressive stance against healthcare fraud and abuse.

Dr. Bernard Greenspan is the latest physician to find himself facing jail time. He was among more than 40 people, many of them physicians, who allegedly accepted payments from Biodiagnostic Laboratory Services (BLS) in exchange for referrals.

Greenspan is the first to go to trial, most of the others charged in the case, including the now-defunct laboratory company’s owners and more than two-dozen physicians, have pleaded guilty.

Prosecutors are alleging that between 2006 and 2009, physicians were frequently paid thousands of dollars a month by BLS for space in medical offices that BLS did not need or use, and to perform routine blood drawing services that had little real dollar value.

Greenspan’s attorneys argue that he has practiced for more than 50 years with an untarnished record and that he was an unwitting pawn in the long-running and elaborate laboratory test referral scheme.

The case, which is being heard in New Jersey, is expected to last about a month. If found guilty, Greenspan faces the possibility of spending the remainder of his life behind bars.

The case first unfolded in April 2013 with the announcement of charges against laboratory president David Nicoll, two employees and another physician, but quickly grew to include several dozen more to become one of the largest medical laboratory bribery cases.

The laboratory’s owners have admitted that the scam involved millions of dollars in bribes and resulted in more than $100 million in fraudulent payments from Medicare and private insurance companies. The owners used at least half a dozen entities to disguise bribe payments to physicians.

Over the course of the charged conspiracy, BLS has made more than $200 million from the testing of blood specimens and related services.

Last December, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey reported that it recovered $2.3 million in property and funds from various defendants in the case.

The Anti-Kickback Statute prohibits offering, paying, soliciting, or receiving anything of value to induce or reward referrals payable by federal health care programs.

This case clearly illustrates how important it is for healthcare professionals to obtain legal counsel when considering entering into any agreement that involves payment, particularly from another entity that benefits from the deal.

The Health Law Offices of Anthony C. Vitale can assist clients in making sure that any contractual arrangements do not violate existing laws. Feel free to contact us for additional information at 305-358-4500 or send an email to info@vitalehealthlaw.com and let’s discuss how we might be able to assist you.