Healthcare News & Insights

Did doc do unneeded procedures for a free pig roast?

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A doctor who’s been accused of implanting hundreds of unnecessary stents received millions in cash and other incentives from a stent manufacturer. That’s according to a recent investigation by the Senate Finance Committee. The committee has been investigating the unusually high number of stents placed by Dr. Mark Midei at St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson, Maryland. Midei was initially the focus of a series of investigative reports in the Baltimore Sun.

Midei was one of the most prolific users of stents in the country — particularly stents produced by Abbot Labs. In fact, when Midei once implanted more than 30 stents in one day, a sales rep at Abbot paid over $2,000 to throw a party for Midei at his home: The spread included a whole roast pig, peach cobbler and other treats.

But there are many questions about just how many of those stents Midei should have implanted. According to the Senate committee report, nearly 600 of the stent procedures were medically unnecessary, having been placed in patients who had minimal — or in some cases, no — blockages of the arteries. The Senate Finance Committee oversees Medicare. The Senate’s involved because Medicare paid over $3.8 million for Midei’s questionable stent procedures.

Midei no longer practices at St. Joseph’s, and the hospital has paid a $22 million fine to settle charges that it illegally paid kickbacks to Midei. The debacle doesn’t end there: Hundreds of former patients are suing, alleging they were put in harm’s way by pointless procedures.

How often does this happen?

There’s something more troubling than Midei’s alleged misdeeds: Many doctors and other medical experts say this kind of racket is more common than most of us are willing to admit. That kind of over-treatment not only puts patients at needless risk, it soaks up scarce resources and drives up the total cost of everyone’s health care.

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