4 physicians suing former employers or competitors

Becker's has reported on four physicians who have filed suits against their former employers or competitors since June 10:

1. An appellate court revived an antitrust lawsuit against IU Health filed by a former employee that alleges the Indianapolis-based health system engaged in anticompetitive behavior that decreased standards of care in the region. 

IU Health won a motion to dismiss the suit in November after a federal judge found the geographic markets outlined by Ricardo Vazquez, MD, the surgeon-plaintiff in the lawsuit, did not reflect the commercial realities of the industry.

Dr. Vazquez, an independent vascular surgeon in Bloomington, Ill., alleges IU Health restricted referral patterns to specialists within its network after acquiring almost all the primary care physicians in Southern Indiana.

2. A federal judge rejected the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's bid to dismiss a whistleblower lawsuit against UPMC, its physicians group and its chair of cardiothoracic surgery. The defendants are accused of submitting hundreds of false claims to Medicare, Medicaid and other government health programs over a six-year period. 

The U.S. Justice Department alleges UPMC and James Luketich, MD, chair of cardiothoracic surgery at the medical center, "regularly sacrificed patient health in order to increase surgical volume" and "maximize profit," according to a report from NBC affiliate WPXI. 

The case was originally filed by Jonathan D'Cunha, MD, PhD, under the False Claims Act. Dr. D'Cunha is a former UPMC cardiothoracic surgeon who now practices at Mayo Clinic in Phoenix.

3. Minas Kochumian, MD, paid $9.49 million to settle allegations from a suit filed by his former medical assistant that he submitted false claims to CMS and Medi-Cal, California's Medicaid program, for procedures and tests that were never performed. 

Dr. Kochumian admitted he intentionally submitted false claims for payment, the department said. For more than six years, ending in April 2018, he submitted claims for osteoporosis and osteoarthritis medication injections, tailbone cyst drainages, and the removal and destruction of various growths. Those procedures were never performed.

His former medical assistant Elize Oganesyan, and his former informational technology consultant, Damon Davies, originally brought the allegations forward under the whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act. 

4. A Rockland, N.Y.-based physician has blamed his bankruptcy on Fidelis Care health insurance and Spring Valley, N.Y.-based Refuah Health Center, a competitor, Westchester & Fairfield County Business Journals reported. 

Pediatrician and practice owner Seth Kurtz, MD, said the two companies have made "concerted action" to block reimbursements to his practice, according to an affidavit filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court. 

QHC Upstate Medical filed for Chapter 11 reorganization on July 5, declaring $366,049 in assets and $2,289,588 in liabilities. The practice previously sued Fidelis for $3 million for allegedly illegally canceling its service agreement. A Rockland County Supreme Court judge ruled against the practice and awarded $1.5 million to Fidelis last year, a decision Dr. Kurtz has appealed.

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