Chiropractic Fraud – Perception Vs Reality

Is health care fozia shan siddiqi fraud more prevalent in claims submitted by chiropractors than those submitted by members of other health care disciplines? When looking at the various news-sources, chiropractors are not found to make up either the lion-share of health care fraud charges or convictions reported.

Unfortunately, instances of fraud & abuse are present in ALL health care disciplines – Chiropractic, Medicine, Physical Therapy, etc. There is no single discipline that can lay claim to a proportionately higher rate of fraudulent conduct than any other health care discipline. However, despite this fact, there is an ongoing feeding-frenzy of insurers investigating chiropractic claims. These investigations go beyond simply evaluating either the merits or medical necessity of claims to determine if they should be paid.

Insurers are conducting ‘post-payment’ audits of claims paid in years past – focusing on purported documentation deficiencies in an effort to open the door for carriers to demand the money back! Chiropractors have found themselves faced with large refund demands from insurers. Why?

Is it because the services were not performed? No, the insurer verifies the performance of the services through talking with the patient. Is it because the chiropractor did not document having performed the service? No, the services in question are customarily documented as having been performed. Post-payment audits arise because the insurer has retroactively concluded, perhaps based upon some sense of entitlement, that the services were not documented sufficiently – i.e., to their satisfaction!

Insurers demanding refunds from providers for payments made – armed with allegations that providers failed to adequately document the services that were billed – file complaints with licensing & regulatory boards of the providers. If such complaints are made the real test will be in proving the documentation and standards were not met. The standards for documentation, as well as all other practice activity, for health care providers is established and defined by state health care licensing & regulatory boards. The boards, NOT the insurance companies, or managed care organizations, provide administrative oversight of the activity of licensees with sanctions for those who violate the laws and rules.

Allstate Insurance has established a clear-cut policy of suing chiropractors, alleging fraud and issuing press releases with the fanfare of a New Year’s Day parade. News sources, including chiropractic periodicals, do little or nothing to either investigate or evaluate the factual bases of these suits prior to joining in lock-step to print the release giving Allstate the press it so desires.

The news media and public-at-large tend to believe that if Allstate sues a health care provider, alleging fraud, the provider must have engaged in fraudulent activities. It must mean that Allstate believes both they and their insured – were somehow defrauded by the provider’s actions or conduct. It must also mean that Allstate relied upon the provider’s misrepresentations when paying claims?

Well, that certainly was not the case according to the September 2007 decision rendered by the United States 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of Allstate Insurance Co. et al. v. Receivables Finance Company, LLC et al. The Opinion handed down by the Court was that Allstate is a major player in the casualty business – thus when Allstate routinely reviews a health care bill submitted by a chiropractor, performs some form of utilization review on the provider’s bill and ends up paying a significantly reduced sum based on the explanation that Allstate believed that a significant portion of the bill was either medically unnecessary or not properly documented and thus not subject to payment – Allstate cannot later come back and sue the same provider claiming that it was defrauded by some scam perpetrated by that same provider.

Nor was it the case, based on my personal knowledge, having worked with Accident & Injury Chiropractic (“A&I”), a named defendant in the case. In 1998, following the execution of search warrants by federal authorities, I assisted A&I on implementing a Health Care Compliance program, a program designed to detect and correct any improper, false or fraudulent action by the company and/or its health care providers- primarily chiropractors. Following A&I’s implementation of their compliance program, the federal investigation was formally closed.

The Compliance program that A&I implemented included an intensive internal auditing, monitoring and reporting system to facilitate the identification and correction of any form(s) of misconduct. The Compliance program was well-publicized to insurers and others, who were invited to report their concerns relative to alleged improper conduct and/or activities of the clinics, as well as those chiropractors associated, to A&I’s Compliance Board to have those concerns appropriately addressed.

Allstate was well aware of A&I’s Compliance program implementation, but never, to my knowledge, reported any concerns Allstate had, Allstate alleged in its highly publicized lawsuit, to the Compliance Board. It is significant to note that, while other insurers in positions similar to that of Allstate, did report concerns and such concerns were sufficiently addressed and corrected to the insurers’ satisfaction.

Although an integral part of the creation and implementation of A&I’s Compliance program, the only contact I had with Allstate was after it had filed its lawsuit. This contact consisted of speaking with a paralegal of Allstate’s attorney. The paralegal indicated she understood that I had assisted A&I with its Compliance program and Allstate’s attorney would like to talk with me. On no occasion did I ever speak with Allstate’s attorney. The only reason that I did not talk with Allstate’s attorney is that Allstate’s attorney refused to serve me with domesticated process as an out-of-state witness.

This brings us to Allstate’s suit filed in Federal Court in Dallas, Texas in March 2008, viz, Allstate et al. v. Michael K. Plambeck, D.C., Chiropractic Strategies et al. In this suit, Allstate alleges that Plambeck, who owns and operates Chiropractic Strategies Group (“CSG”), orchestrated a multi-state scam involving doctors, lawyers and telemarketers cleverly designed to solicit auto accident victims for free chiropractic evaluations – asserting that these free screenings were some form of subterfuge to enable CSG doctors to “inform” the patients they had severe injuries and to encourage the patients to sign up for legal representation by attorneys in order to prosecute claims for insurance recoveries and/or to participate in lawsuits against Allstate Insurance.

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