Qamar got $18.2 million in Medicare reimbursements in 2012.
By Sujeet Rajan
WASHINGTON, DC: The US government has intervened in two lawsuits against prominent Florida-based Pakistani American cardiologist, Dr. Asad Qamar, who has the distinction of receiving $18.2 million in Medicare reimbursements in 2012, the most paid to any cardiologist in the US that year.
The government’s decision on the lawsuits alleging that Qamar and his physician group Institute of Cardiovasular Excellence (ICE) billed Medicare for medically unnecessary peripheral artery interventions and paid kickbacks to patients by waiving the 20 percent Medicare copayments irrespective of financial hardship, was announced by the Justice Department today.
“Performing medically unnecessary procedures puts patients at risk and contributes to the soaring costs of health care,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Joyce R. Branda for the Justice Department’s Civil Division, in a statement.
The lawsuits were filed under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act, which permit private parties to sue on behalf of the government when they discover evidence that defendants have submitted false claims for government funds and to receive a share of any recovery. The False Claims Act also permits the government to intervene in such lawsuits, as it has done in these cases.
“Physicians who try to enrich themselves and their practices by performing medically unnecessary, invasive procedures can cause patients very serious health issues, waste millions in taxpayer dollars each year, and undercut the public’s trust in the medical profession,” said Special Agent in Charge Derrick L. Jackson of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services-Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), in a statement.
Last year, in April, The New York Times had reported that Qamar, a graduate of Lahore’s King Edwards Medical College and a candidate for the post of president of the Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent in North America (APPNA), was among two doctors who received the nation’s highest Medicare reimbursements in 2012, and was a major contributor to Democratic Party causes. He had paid at least $250,000 to the campaigns of President Barack Obama and other prominent Democrats.
“Just looking at the sheer volume of work and billings from a single physician is not a sign of wrongdoing,” Dr. Qamar said in an interview to the Times in that report, noting that his practice handles cardiac procedures in its outpatient clinics that would be done inside a hospital in many other states, which he said explained the large billable amounts.
The Medicare reimbursements paid to Dr. Qamar in 2012 — $18.2 million — was much more than to any other cardiologist in the United States. The second-highest total listed was $4.5 million, paid to Dr. Ashish Pal of Davenport, Florida.