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Gingersnap
11-09-2009, 02:33 PM
Investigators descend on doctor ‘They have access to everything,’ Kalispell doc says

Posted: Sunday, November 8, 2009 2:00 am | Updated: .

By CANDACE CHASE/Daily Inter Lake | 46 comments

Dr. Annie Bukacek of Hosanna Health Care in Kalispell was surprised when a 30- to 40-foot-long command-post vehicle pulled up unannounced last week, along with a posse of state and federal health-care fraud investigators.

That marked the latest in a string of inquiries that started last April. Apparently someone alleged abuse of patients or fraud with regard to Medicaid billing involving Bukacek's medical practice. Questions about praying with patients also have been raised.

Bukacek said she spent an hour and a half Wednesday with an FBI agent, a criminal investigator and two health-care fraud investigators, trying to get some answers about why her small practice was under scrutiny.

"They said they have to follow up every allegation made," Bukacek said. "I believe these individuals are people doing their job. I find no fault in them. But think about the federal capacity for harassment. Will I continue to get an average of one government investigation a month?"

Bukacek, an outspoken critic of President Obama's health-care reforms and president of Montana ProLife Coalition, said the visit last week was the fourth or fifth investigation since last spring. She was astonished at the tax dollars invested and the intrusion into patient privacy as volumes of records were copied and carted away.

It was done legally under health-care subpoenas obtained apparently by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica Fehr with the U.S. Department of Justice in Billings.

"This is highly personal information," Bukacek said. "They have access to everything."

When contacted in Billings, Fehr would not comment. She said the policy of her office is "to neither confirm nor deny the existence of any investigations."

The policy is designed to protect the reputations of physicians if allegations prove to be unfounded. Attempts to contact investigators were unsuccessful.

Bukacek said she decided to go public for several reasons. The first was that she wanted other physicians under investigation to know they are not alone.

(snip)

Because of the thousands of pages of rules and regulations, Bukacek said any physician might unknowingly fail to comply with one. She recently learned about a "red flag rule" applied to physicians that has to do with protecting patient identities with penalties of $2,500 for noncompliance.

"This is a way the federal government can crush anyone financially that they choose," she said.

Bukacek said she can't afford to hire a lawyer to protect her against these unknown allegations. She received a letter that just said the unit investigating her is part of the Montana Division of Criminal Investigation that looks into allegations of Medicaid fraud and patient abuse.

"So the insinuation is that there have been allegations of fraud against me," she said. "This is embarrassing to me because people have a tendency to judge guilty until proven innocent."

Bukacek points out that anyone - a disgruntled ex-employee or patient or someone who doesn't like a physician's looks or politics - could trigger an investigation and cost a physician as well as the government thousands of dollars.

While at Hosanna Health Care, investigators questioned staffers and looked at schedules and files, apparently trying to determine if she actually spent the time with patients reflected in her billings. They asked for a list of all her former employees.

Bukacek finds it ironic that spending more time with patients than most physicians has attracted a fraud investigation. In a letter she wrote to Fehr, she pointed out that the higher rate billed for a longer visit doesn't pay as much as billing for four patients in one hour.

"We have chosen to do it this way because we are absolutely convinced that superior quality patient care requires time," Bukacek said in the letter.

She also asks patients if she can pray with them. Oh, the horror.

Daily Interlake (http://www.dailyinterlake.com/news/local_montana/article_d8cde54e-cc2d-11de-9ddd-001cc4c03286.html)

GrumpyOldLady
11-09-2009, 02:50 PM
And she's been speaking out against Obamacare.
Obama = BIg Brother.