No matter the outcome, there’s no happy ending to a story that involves a doctor putting cancer patients through unnecessary, grueling treatments for his own benefit. In Michigan, a doctor accused of doing just that pleaded guilty Sept. 16 to health care fraud, money laundering and conspiracy to defraud the government, but Dr. Farid Fata’s downfall is probably little comfort to his former patients.
The complaint filed against Fata is an unpleasant read. Fata ran Michigan Hematology Oncology Pharmacy Services and is said to have decided the diagnoses and treatments for all of the many patients who passed through his office doors. For patients in remission, he allegedly prescribed large doses of what he called maintenance chemotherapy, and terminal patients apparently underwent chemotherapy that had no hope of improving their prognosis.
According to the complaint, witnesses said Fata worked with a high volume of patients, ordered large doses of treatment and possibly used unlicensed doctors to handle his massive workload. In one example, a nurse who previously worked at a hospital with a larger team of doctors said she typically saw two or three patients come in for a particular cancer treatment each month, but while working with Fata, she saw 50 patients a month coming in for that treatment. Fata apparently only spent 2 to 3 minutes with each patient.
If you’re wondering about the point of all this, an operation on this scale likely netted Fata a great deal of money: The doctor had multiple oncology offices, which submitted Medicare claims totaling about $109 million between August 2007 and July 2013, MLive Detroit reported.
Fata pleaded guilty to 13 counts of health care fraud, two counts of money laundering and one count of conspiracy to defraud the government. He has not yet been sentenced.
Financial Difficulties Add to Stress
As if dealing with the emotional stress of a cancer diagnosis isn’t enough, there’s the heavy financial burden most patients endure. Cancer treatments are expensive, and Fata seems to have churned through patients and chemotherapy at an alarming rate. A majority (62%) of cancer survivors incur medical debt because of treatment, and about one-third of survivors require financial assistance to cover their medical costs, according to a report from Washington National Institute for Wellness Solutions.
That financial struggle often manifests in the form of debt collection accounts, which have a negative impact on your credit standing, not to mention how confusing they can be for consumers to resolve. Ideally, you’re not paying for medical care you don’t need and you have some savings to help you cover unexpected health care expenses, but if you’re one of millions of Americans with medical collection accounts, there are ways to emerge from debt. No matter the path you take to financial freedom, regularly check your credit reports and credit scores to make sure you’re making the progress you expect and that your debt repayment has been properly reported to the three main credit bureaus. You’re entitled to your free annual credit reports, and you can see two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com.
More on Managing Debt:
- How to Pay Off Credit Card Debt
- 5 Tips for Consolidating Credit Card Debt
- The Best Way to Loan Money to Friends & Family