The FBI raided my solo medical clinic and will not tell me why. FBI agents also forfeited my clinic and personal bank accounts, leaving me without capital to pay my staff or bills after the raid. A court hearing requesting return of all my patients' medical charts, return of funds, and an opening of the affidavits explaining the reasons for these damages failed on all three counts, because government agents have acquired terrific power since passage of statutes allowing them to bypass certain civil rights in the name of the war on drugs, the war on terrorism, and HIPAA.
My clinic has been under investigation since June 2010. It was raided on June 16, 2011. It may be five more years before I am informed of the government's suspicions, or am able to get patient charts back, because there is a seven-year statute of limitations on investigations like this. My lawyers cannot find a reason for the raid, nor could an independent consult hired to analyze billing and coding records. But they say there is nothing they can do. Meanwhile, my patients' medical care has been affected by the loss of their records, and my reputation and self-esteem have been damaged.
Mine is not an isolated case. Many doctors undergo audits, Medicare payment denials and "take-backs," investigations, raids, and bank forfeitures at the hands of overzealous government agents eager to further their reputations, and to patch holes in the national debt with money from raids and forced settlements. It is so expensive and time-consuming to defend one's innocence in court that lawyers, including mine, often recommend settling. Settling means turning over money without ever being given a reason, or being granted due process, and seems like an encouragement to the government to do this again and again.
With the implementation of the Affordable Healthcare Act in January 2013, the United States will need 40 million new doctors. Yet the government has stepped up its attacks on doctors by auditing en masse, accusing us of billing errors, and refusing to pay for services through Medicare. There is no workable appeals process. For this reason, and to steer clear of the defamation of character caused by raids like mine, 37% of physicians say they plan to retire in the next 10 years. The rest are joining corporate group practices, working for the government, or thinking about quitting.
The government should reduce the seven-year statute of limitations on raids and investigations, so that government prosecutors cannot hide evidence (or the absence of evidence), effectively holding people like me hostage for an intolerable numbers of years.
Please support my petition demanding the Department of Justice to show cause for the raid on my clinic, and to do so immediately. This will bring to the foreground the problems doctors face--especially solo doctors--and rescue me from what feels like a police state, making it difficult to concentrate on patient care. It will also bring to light the milieu of pressure and fear within which doctors practice. These conditions must change if we are to have enough doctors left to care for people, and any solo doctors at all.
My blog, solodocssolong.blogspot.com, gives more details about my case.
- Attorney General Eric Holder and the U.S. Department of Justice
I just signed the following petition addressed to: Attorney General Eric Holder and the U.S. Department of Justice.
Show Cause Immediately for the FBI Raid on Colasante Clinic
The owner and staff of this medical clinic deserve to know what is going on. It seems like a violation of civil rights for the government to hold a physician like this hostage, after confiscating all the medical records, working capital, personnel files, handbooks, documents and supplies vital for providing good patient care, and not give information about why such drastic action was taken.
On June 16, 2011 dozens of FBI agents raided this medical clinic, taking all the patients' charts, $100,000 worth of medical supplies, and stacks of billing and personnel records.
Action like this on the part of government officials must be justified, or we will lose many good physicians in this country. It is wrong to keep the affidavits explaining the reasons for such an intrusion of a business, and such damage to a physician's reputation in a small community.
The government must stop its harassment of physicians through Medicare audits, investigations, coding changes and broad recruitment of "whistleblowers" to such an extent that patients are encouraged to report their long-time physicians simply when they don't understand the statements Medicare sends them.
If we have any hope of increasing the number of doctors in this country, and meeting the expanded healthcare needs necessitated by the Affordable Care Act, we must stop treating doctors like criminals. If there is good cause for raiding a doctor's office, then make the government prove it by stating that cause, and allowing doctors to present their cases.
Please insist that your prosecutor, Corey Smith, in the Northern District of Florida, show cause immediately for the raid and forfeiture of Colasante Clinic, thereby setting an example for transparency, honesty, and the proper and timely enactment of justice for the rest of the country. Physicians can no longer live in fear of government raids, knowing that they have no rights for up to seven years because the affidavits containing information about such raids can remain sealed. This is an unacceptable condition, and must be changed.
Colasante Ona started this petition with a single signature, and now has 193 supporters. Start a petition today to change something you care about.