Thankfully, most doctors are honest, but a pattern of greed and dishonesty has popped up with disturbing frequency around the country: heart specialists putting permanent devices into healthy hearts with no medical justification. It’s happened in California, Maryland, New Mexico and now in a Chicago suburb, Munster, Indiana.
This town of 23,000, 30 miles southeast of Chicago, now has 293 patients asserting in lawsuits that a trio of heart specialists performed needless procedures, the New York Times reports.
State Medicaid officials, the Times says, have launched an investigation and federal authorities also may be probing the physicians, who make up Munster’s most popular cardiology practice and the highest-paid heart doctors by Medicare reimbursement.
The newspaper examines not only the practitioners and their preferences for certain medical devices and procedures but also the role of a local hospital that benefited from the physicians’ robust activity.
Among the paper’s findings, based on data it shared with a professor of Medicine at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice: Munster’s rate for defibrillator implants, per capita and after appropriate adjustment for various key factors, was in the top 10 percent for the country for 2010, 2011 and 2012.
The region showed up with some of Indiana’s highest rates per capita for cardiac catheterizations and coronary angioplasties, procedures that, in many cases, can be elective, i.e., optional.
Good advice gets offered in the final line by an unhappy patient who now carries a five-inch chest scar for a surgery and other procedures and medications that are under question now: “Don’t do what I did and depend on the doctor,” she says. “Get a second opinion.”
Of course, that’s easier said than done when a seemingly sincere doctor says you need heart surgery and you may not have a lot of time to dither around with second opinions. When a doctor uses scare tactics, that’s when it’s even more important to apply the brakes and politely ask about getting a doctor from some unaffiliated medical practice to look things over and give independent advice.