Most of us are very concerned about our health. Some of us (heck, maybe most of us) are borderline hypochondriacs.
That is why it is always disquieting to read, or hear, about someone who takes advantage of those fears for profit. It is even more unsettling when one reads about others who cheer such stinkers along - to the tune of rewarding them in the millions of dollars for unnecessary use of medical products.
According to The New York Times, one such case unfolded in Baltimore. There, a prominent cardiologist, Dr. Mark Midei, was accused of implanting unneeded stents in heart patients. In a study of some 1,850 of Dr. Midei's cases, peers determined the stents were unnecessary - medically uncalled for - in 585 of the patients.
In those 585 cases, Medicare paid some $3.8 million of the $6.6 million in charges.
At his peak, Dr. Midei was performing some 1,200 such procedures annually. He was praised by the company who made the stents, Abbott Laboratories. In one company email, they bragged about one busy day Dr. Midei implanted some 30 stents. The company helped the doctor celebrate by throwing a $2,159 barbecue at Midei's home a couple of days later.
A hospital where many of the procedures were performed has agreed to pay a $22 million fine to settle charges that it paid illegal kickbacks to Dr. Midei's practice in exchange for patient referrals. The story said that each stent procedure was worth approximately $10,000 to the hospital. Hundreds of lawsuits have been filed against that hospital and Dr. Midei.
In May of this year, the Maryland Medical Board upheld a 2011 decision to revoke Dr. Midei's license to practice.
All of which brings us back to a recurring theme on this page: If anyone seriously wants to reform health care in the United States, the starting point should be reining in costs by rooting out fraud and corruption - not throwing more money at the problem.
Government has to lead this charge. As noted, most of us are so gullible when it comes to our health that we'll believe anything a doctor tells us - hook, line and, God forbid, stinker.
(Portions of this editorial have appeared previously in The Maui News.)
* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.