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Med School Cites Fraud In Firing 2 Radiologists

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The University of Missouri School of Medicine fired two radiologists last week, accusing them of billing fraud.

Hal Williamson, MD, vice chancellor for health affairs of the University of Missouri Health System, said Kenneth Rall, MD, and Michael Richards, MD, had falsely certified that they had reviewed X-ray images, in violation of Medicare and hospital rules. Instead, resident physicians had reviewed the images, Dr. Williamson said. He told a news conference last Thursday:

We were shocked and disappointed to learn about this. This is inconsistent with our values.

The Columbia Daily Tribune of Columbia, Missouri, reported on the news conference. The newspaper has been following this story for some time. As we noted back in January, the Tribune reported then that the health system was under investigation. It had noted earlier that Dr. Rall had quietly resigned in December as radiology department chairman.

Under both hospital and Medicare rules, a resident physician can read a patient’s X-ray and use the information gained to shape a patient’s care, but an attending radiologist must review the image before Medicare will pay. “We believe these two doctors sometimes claimed that they had actually completed this second review without actually looking at the image,” Dr. Williamson said.

Dr. Rall made a base university salary of $571,200, and Dr. Richards made a base university salary of $245,742.

A university investigation found no evidence that patient care had been compromised, Dr. Williamson said.

Robert Churchill, MD, dean of the school of medicine and also a radiologist, will retire in October as a result of the situation, Dr. Williamson said. Dr. Churchill hired Dr. Rall in 1998 and later appointed him radiology chair despite Dr. Rall’s earlier conviction for stealing money at a former radiology practice.

The troubles for Drs. Rall and Richards may not be over. Dr. Williamson said they are also under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice. A Justice Department spokesman said the department did not confirm or otherwise comment on investigations until a criminal charge is filed.

Dr. Williamson said the health system would change its procedures and upgrade software to guard against future fraud. He also said the university would scrutinize its hiring policies:

We need to be careful about who we hire. This was not a hire we would make again.

Uh, yeah.

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