Physicians ordered urine screens unnecessarily to defraud the government.
Two doctors operating in Florence, Kentucky, were convicted of multiple counts of healthcare fraud and conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud. The defendants, Dr. William Lawrence Siefert and Dr. Timothy Ehn colluded together to scam the Medicaid program for several million dollars. Dr. Siefert has 44 years of prior experience with specializations in anesthesiology and pain medicine. Dr. Ehn, the owner of the Northern Kentucky Center for Pain Relief, employed Dr. Siefert.
The doctors maintained the scheme by making it easier for certain patients to gain access to opioids. Those patients then consistently received medically unnecessary urine screening. Those screenings were typically performed on faulty equipment and the doctors ignored the results. Federal healthcare support programs like Medicare and Medicaid reimbursed the doctors for all the useless tests, and Siefert and Ehn were able to finesse millions of dollars from healthcare programs with these underhanded techniques.
The prosecutors of the case stated, “The more procedures Siefert and Ehn billed, the more money [the clinic] would receive in reimbursements from Medicare, Medicaid, and other health care benefit programs.”
This ongoing scheme may have harmed patients as well as the healthcare programs. The opioid prescriptions written by Siefert and Ehn likely contributed to seven fatal overdoses among former patients, authorities reported. The two had no concern for their patient’s well-being and did not slow down the fraud after learning about the patients’ overdoses. However, the doctors were never charged in relation to these deaths because it could not be established that their prescriptions were the cause.
These are not the first doctors to commit health care fraud with the help of urinalysis exams. In 2014, Dr. Jeffrey Campbell was arrested for running a similar scheme and collecting millions. Campbell would prescribe opiates to patients who had no medical need for strong pain medications. He then made millions through reimbursements for urinalysis screens and would ignore any abnormal results. Four patients died from overdoses in connection with the Campbell fraud.
Many other doctors around the country recognize the profit potential of urine screenings. Some facilities make more than $11 million in a single year from urinalysis reimbursements. The nationwide spending on these tests increased by 400 percent between 2011 and 2014. Spending on urinalysis exams reached an all-time high of $8.5 billion in 2014.
In one study, 31 practitioners admitted to receiving more than 80 percent of their Medicare income through urine testing programs, and many practitioners make more money through urine screening than actually treating patients. Clinics, doctors, and laboratories continue to make massive profits while patients are regularly prescribed addictive and dangerous medications.
Kentucky doctors, Siefert and Ehn, were originally charged with healthcare fraud in 2021. The case was thoroughly investigated by the Kentucky Medical Fraud Control Unit, DEA, and FBI. Both defendants have now been convicted but have not received sentencing. Dr. Siefert was convicted of healthcare fraud and can face up to 10 years in prison. Dr. Ehn was also convicted of healthcare fraud and conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud and can face up to 10 years for each charge. Sentencing for the pair will take place on September 20, 2023.