One time New York orthopedic surgeon Spyros Panos, who served 3 years in federal prison for healthcare fraud, was arrested again in April for another healthcare fraud.
As I blogged in 2013, his original crimes involved performing so-called “phantom” operations such as claiming he had done a joint replacement when he had not, bad outcomes, unnecessary surgery, and performing up to 22 cases in a single day some of which lasted as little as 8 minutes.
He admitted to fraud for which he received not only the prison sentence but also a fine of $250,000 and had to pay restitution of $5 million. He gave up his medical license.
Some 260 malpractice suits against Panos were recently settled for $45 million to be paid by two insurance companies.
His latest scam allegedly involved stealing the identity of an orthopedic surgeon colleague and performing peer reviews of Workers’ Compensation examination reports both before and after he served his jail time for the first fraud. The scheme was lucrative in that he collected over $860,000 for less than 18 months of work.
A press release from workerscompensation.com quoted New York State Inspector General Catherine Leahy Scott: “With jaw-dropping hubris, this disgraced former physician engaged in a health care fraud scheme while serving a federal sentence for yet another health care fraud. The alleged actions behind these new charges demonstrate his apparent lack of remorse and a clear disdain for making an honest living.”
The charges include aggravated identity theft, healthcare fraud, and wire fraud with a maximum sentence of 32 years and a fine of $500,000 if convicted.
This raises questions about how the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board operates.
How does it vet its peer review physicians? How does it know that no other bogus physicians are working for it? How valid are the peer reviews that Panos did? Will all of those reviews need to be validated by someone else? Panos must have done quite a few reviews to have made so much money in such a short period of time. Why didn’t the volume of his work raise a red flag?
My final question is one which has probably occurred to any doctor reading this story. Is the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board looking for a replacement for Panos? At $860,000 for 1½ year’s work, I’ll take the job.
Skeptical Scalpel is a retired surgeon and was a surgical department chairman and residency program director for many years. He is board-certified in general surgery and a surgical sub-specialty and has re-certified in both several times. For the last 8 years, he has been blogging at SkepticalScalpel.blogspot.com and tweeting as @SkepticScalpel. His blog has had more than 3,000,000 page views, and he has over 18,000 followers on Twitter.