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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Medical Fraud in Wisconsin

In the service of government teachers.

Patient’s rights advocate Siobhan Reynolds is currently under criminal investigation simply for speaking out against the federal prosecutions of doctors accused of writing pain medication prescriptions the government claims have “no medical purpose.” Indeed, the government has demonstrated a propensity to pursue doctors across the country with criminal charges, often over a wide array of activities conveniently lumped into over-expansive accusations of fraud.

Imagine my surprise, then, when on camera and in daylight, doctors in Wisconsin have been writing fraudulent “excuses” for teachers who have been demonstrating at the state capitol over recent moves by the governor and the legislature to abolish collective bargaining for public-employee unions. (The teachers claim they were sick, which is why they were not in the classrooms.) Indeed, the doctors have not even tried to cover their actions. One observer quoted by the MacIver Institute, Christian Hartsock, said:

I asked this doctor what he was doing and he told me they were handing out excuses to people who were feeling sick due to emotional, mental or financial distress. They never performed an exam – he asked me how I was feeling today and I said I’m from California and I’m not used to the cold, so he handed me a note.

Other doctors held up signs offering to sign excuse notes for teachers. They not only signed their names but also included their Wisconsin medical license numbers, as required on a medical form. They seemed proud of what they are doing.

Open Fraud

Nothing is being done about this open fraud so far, and I cannot say I am surprised. The Obama administration has been front and center in this whole protest, even helping to coordinate some activities. (The White House now is denying it played any role, but the tweets from Organizing for America and Brad Woodhouse, the Democratic Party communications director, paint a much different scene.)

The reason I make this point is that the teachers clearly have engaged in activities approved by the Obama administration, yet to be at the capitol without taking personal leave, the teachers have called in sick. Since they are not really sick, they are engaging in fraud, and therefore any doctor who knowingly writes an excuse note for someone he or she has not examined is writing medical document with “no medical purpose” — which violates federal criminal fraud statutes. The videotapes are evidence of federal crimes.

I will stop here and point out that I have written against these statutes for years, precisely because they are so expansive and so easily applied that any prosecutor wanting to get someone can do so without any problems. Levrenty Berias’s “Show me the man and I will find the crime” threat is now firmly established at the U.S. Department of Justice as a legal doctrine.

Even though these fraud statutes tend to be, well, fraudulent, they are applied against doctors every day. Last fall, I saw a childhood friend of more than 50 years sentenced to what in effect is a life term in federal prison for “writing prescriptions for which there was no medical purpose.” The DOJ is persecuting Siobhan Reynolds merely because she spoke out against similar prosecutions.

Yet here were have doctors on camera breaking the law — with impunity — purely for political reasons, and the Usual Suspects are not interested. The same people who will move heaven and earth to destroy the career and family of a well-respected doctor like William Hurwitz apparently don’t care that doctors are committing real fraud to help unionized teachers break the law.

So there we have it. Engage in behavior that this government considers to be politically acceptable and get a free pass to break the law. Everyone else gets to go to prison.

  • Dr. William Anderson is Professor of Economics at Frostburg State University. He holds a Ph.D in Economics from Auburn University. He is a member of the FEE Faculty Network.