Misdiagnosis is one of the most common forms of medical malpractice. Misdiagnosis occurs when a doctor fails to arrive at a correct diagnosis. This can lead to incorrect treatment, delayed treatment, or a complete lack of treatment for a health issue. When a doctor's diagnosis of a patient fails to comply with the standard of care, serious consequences can result, including death. As a rule, doctors do their best to avoid this type of medical mistake. But a recent case in New Jersey, a cardiologist has admitted to purposely misdiagnosing patients so that he could order unnecessary tests and collect money from Medicare, Medicaid, and other insurers.
During a hearing in federal court, lawyers for the U.S. Government alleged that from 2004 through 2012 Dr. Jose Katz ordered the same battery of diagnostic tests for patients regardless of their symptoms. In doing so, the government alleges Dr. Katz falsely diagnosed a majority of patients with angina so that he could justify prescribing the unnecessary treatments. Dr. Katz also directed physicians and other employees at his facilities in New Jersey and New York to perform unnecessary enhanced external counterpulsation (EECP) tests to treat angina, billing Medicaid and Medicare an astonishing $15 million in the process. In addition, Dr. Katz allowed at least one unlicensed practitioner, who received a medical degree in Puerto Rico but was never licensed in the U.S., to diagnose and treat patients. In a separate scheme, Dr. Katz put his wife on the payroll to collect benefits without doing any work.
In a statement, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman said that by allowing unlicensed employees to treat patients and ordering unnecessary tests and treatments, Dr. Katz willingly risked his patients' health for his own financial gain. While admitting to the fraud, Dr. Katz disputed that his patients were in danger of any serious risks, saying "The patients are more important than anything else."
It remains to be seen whether Dr. Katz's many patients will choose to pursue any sort of medical malpractice litigation for misdiagnosis or event certain intentional tort claims like battery. While his unlicensed employee has plead guilty to healthcare fraud and is awaiting sentencing, as part of his plea Dr. Katz was released on a $200,000 bond and faces between 57 and 87 months in prison. He is scheduled for sentencing in July 2013.
Medscape.com, US Cardiologist Admits to Ordering $19 Million in Unnecessary Testing, 4-11-13
The Record, Paterson Cardiologist Admits to $19M in Health Care Fraud, 4-10-13