We rely on doctors, including psychiatrists, to keep us healthy. When one prescribes us a medication we trust them and take it. This is particularly true of vulnerable people like nursing home residents and other individuals who have to rely on health care providers for their day-to-day needs. Sometimes health care providers make errors, so we have a medical malpractice system to help right those wrongs. But in some much rarer cases doctors are much more malicious than that, and they actually intentionally act against their patients’ interests for their own financial benefit. These cases can result in doctors losing their licenses or even facing criminal charges.
Suspended Illinois Psychiatrist Pleads Guilty to Criminal Charges
Way back in 2009 the Chicago Tribune and Pro Publica reported that Dr. Michael Reinstein was over prescribing the psychiatric drug clozapine and that it appeared that he was receiving kickbacks for doing so. Previously, in the early 1990s, Reinstein was actually suspended from the Medicaid program after being accused of failing to keep proper records. His Medicaid bills from 1991 showed that he had cared for 70 patients a day on 44 different days and that on 12 days he had seen over 100 patients. If a doctor were to see 100 patients even in a 16 hour shift he or she would have a little less than ten minutes with each patient and that presumes that the doctor would take no breaks to eat, get a glass of water, or use the restroom.
Finally now, in 2015, the Tribune reports that Dr. Reinstein has pled guilty to felony charges for taking kickbacks for prescribing the risky drug. The doctor treated nursing home patients in the Chicago area for many years and has now admitted that throughout those years he received over half a million dollars for prescribing those patients clozapine. He has not yet been sentenced, however the plea agreement provides for anywhere between one and a half years of imprisonment and four years of imprisonment, depending upon how much the doctor helps investigators with an ongoing investigation.
Reinstein Also Agrees to Civil Settlement
In addition to facing criminal charges, Reinstein was also facing a civil suit brought by the Illinois Attorney General. While the criminal prosecution will land him behind bars, the civil suit is all about making sure he pays with actual money for the damage he has done. Reinstein has settled that civil suit which alleged that he had submitted over 140,000 false Medicare and Medicaid claims as part of the kickback scheme. As a result of the settlement he will have to pay $3.7 million in penalties to the federal and state governments.
It is worth noting that, because this settlement had to do with a government lawsuit over government payments for health care, the money will be going to the involved governments, not to the individual patients who were wrongfully prescribed the drugs. As part of the criminal plea agreement Reinstein is also required to forfeit an additional $592,000 which he obtained through the kickback scheme. This money will not go to the actual injured patients either. The only real route to financial recovery for the patients would be a medical malpractice suit, and if they have not already pursued that option the statute of limitations would likely prevent them from filing suit now.
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