Physician under fire for alleged fraud, improper employee bonuses

Laura Dyrda -

New details have emerged about the California Justice Department's fraud investigation into a pain management center chain that closed abruptly in May 2021, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Six details:

1. Former Lags Medical Centers employees said they were given bonuses for treating more than 32 patients per day, and practice owner Francis Lagattuta, MD, confirmed the arrangement in his deposition to a malpractice lawsuit. He said staff would receive "like $10 a patient" if they saw more than the benchmark.

2. Two employees also testified Lags Medical offered bonuses for performing certain procedures, including injections and punch biopsies. However, Dr. Lagattuta said he didn't pay bonuses for specific procedures.

3. Former patients of the clinic testified they were talked into procedures at Lags Medical locations and felt pressure to consent to injections. If they didn't undergo the procedures, the patients feared the clinicians wouldn't prescribe them anymore opioids because of noncompliance with their treatment plan.

4. Lags Medical was a high-volume procedure center, with Lags clinicians performing 1 in 6 of all nerve ablations billed through Medi-Cal from 2015 to 2020, according to Medi-Cal data. Dr. Lagattuta's provider number also billed for more than double of the most extensive drug tests for Medi-Cal patients than the second highest-volume biller, which was a lab company.

5. Medicare paid Dr. Lagattuta $5.4 million for performing around 60,000 extensive drug tests from 2017-19, according to the report.

6. Dr. Lagattuta was previously investigated after a patient filed a complaint with the medical board in 2019, but two investigators didn't find evidence of wrongdoing.

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