Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Rotten at the top

On a number of occasions the Reveres have had the pleasure of dropping a rhetorical turd or three (plop, plop and plop) on the odious American Council on Science and Health (ACSH), headed by Dr. Elizabeth Whelan. Not even industrial strength stool softeners applied with a caulking gun would disimpact this crowd. Their main business is to label research that is inconvenient for their corporate clients, "junk science." And no, none of the Reveres have been called out by these whackos (what have we done wrong?). Our ire is purely academic. We don't like scientific dishonesty in the name of greed.

So imagine our non-surprise to find their medical/executive director, Dr. Gilbert Ross, defender of the downtrodden Wood Preservative Science Council (arsenic is good for you), PCB-laden salmon (nothing fishy here) and sidestream cigarette smoke (take a deep breath, hold it, breathe) stopped practicing medicine in 1995 because he was convicted of defrauding New York's Medicaid program of some $8 million, spending 46 months living at taxpayer's expense in a federal prison camp. Defrauded how? This is how, according to an article in Mother Jones:
During a three-and-a-half-week jury trial, federal prosecutors laid bare Ross' participation in an enterprise, headed by one Mohammed Sohail Khan, to operate four sham medical clinics in New York City. For his scam to work, Khan needed doctors who could qualify as Medicaid providers, and Ross responded to an ad in the New York Times promising "Very, very good $$."

The scheme was brazenly larcenous: The clinics, which were later described as "very dirty and unsanitary," raked in indigent patients—most of them homeless, alcoholic, or drug-addicted men—by offering them prescriptions for expensive drugs that they could resell on the street for cash. Word spread fast, and in streamed patients who, in exchange for the valuable scrip, would provide their Medicaid recipient numbers, give blood samples, and undergo medically unnecessary examinations, procedures, and tests. All of this brought Ross and the other doctors in the scheme money from the state's Medicaid system, a percentage of which was kicked back to Khan.
For lies on the witness stand, Ross was further convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice. He was barred from participating in either Medicare or Medicaid programs for ten years because the Department of Health and Human Services judged him "a highly untrustworthy individual" who engaged in "medically indefensible" practices.

Highly untrustworthy, yes. But not too untrustworthy for some jobs:
After his release from prison, Ross answered another ad in the New York Times, this one for a "staff assistant" at ACSH. Ross told president Elizabeth Whelan that he'd been convicted of a crime, done time in prison, and no longer possessed a medical license. She hired him anyway, and in 1999 he was promoted to medical/executive director.
Whelan is unrepentant and has strongly defended her decision. And to be fair, she is probably even more rotten than he is.