For anyone who has doubt about how low physicians and hospitals can stoop for a buck, a city magazine has offered a dismal portrait of breathtakingly bad conduct in a $500 million medical fraud. Prosecutors have accused some powerful California politicians of playing a part in this scandal.
The report in Los Angeles magazine details how a Long Beach, Calif., hospital and other area facilities became veritable medical factories where droves of patients, many of them blue-collar workers injured on the job but lucky enough to be covered under federal and state workman’s compensation programs or private insurace, underwent back surgeries.
The magazine says that many of these patients were given spinal fusions (a costly controversial procedure); many of the operations were medically unnecessary. But worse still: A key figure in the case, who has pleaded to federal charges in exchange for his prospective testimony about the powerful pols, got surgeons to use medical hardware he supplied. An array of civil lawsuits assert that these specialized screws, rods, and plates were shoddily manufactured knock-offs. Patients have packed the courts with lawsuits, claiming the metal junk is breaking apart in their bodies, subjecting them to debilitating pain and significant health risks.