Jan. 26, 2000
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
AAPS DOCTORS RESPOND TO CLINTON'S MEDICARE "FRAUD" FIGHTERS PLAN
CONTACT: Kathryn Serkes (202) 333-3855
Jane M. Orient, Executive Director, Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS), issued the following statement in response to President Clinton's proposals for increased prosecution of Medicare "fraud" announced last Saturday in his radio address and to be detailed in his State of the Union Address:
"President Clinton's misguided plans for stepped up Medicare fraud enforcement and prosecution of doctors will have a chilling effect on doctors' freedom and will harm patients as well.
"AAPS is in the process of compiling compelling evidence that will demonstrate the damage to patients -- both their access to doctors and ability to receive necessary treatment. The results will be released next week.
"The people President Clinton calls "Medicare cheats" are often doctors who give their patients the best care possible. But then some government bureaucrat deems the treatment unnecessary or inappropriate. Then it's called fraud, and the doctor is pronounced a criminal.
"Doctors are supposed to be familiar with tens of thousands of government billing regulations -- more complex than the tax codes. Yet the government refuses to provide guidance on proper billing codes. If a billing clerk makes an honest mistake, it's called fraud, and the doctor is pronounced a criminal.
"Even the HHS Inspector General admits that most doctors are honest. By far, the bulk of fraud is committed by big-time criminals who are out to bilk the system. They are the modern day Willie Suttons -- instead of robbing banks, they go where the money is. But this Administration has chosen to cast a web so wide that honest doctors are ensnared. The results are ruined lives, both professionally and financially.
"Take the case of Dr. Danny Westmoreland of West Virginia. Federal officers raided his home and office, holding his 9-year-old son, patients and staff at gunpoint while they seized files and computers. A judge eventually threw out the case, but only after Dr. Westmoreland's reputation, practice and finances were devastated.
"AAPS proposes the elimination of third party billing in Medicare to abolish fraud. If patients are paid directly for medical care, the real crooks can't bilk the system.
"President Clinton wants a "fraud buster" in every doctor's office. We say, keep the government out of the examining room and let doctors provide the best for their patients."
AAPS is a national association of physicians in all practices and specialties, dedicated to the santity of the patient-physician relationship since 1943.