Expert Witnesses Differ Over What Medical Data Mean in Forest Park Bribery Trial

Data is only as good as who's crunching it. Jurors hearing the Forest Park Medical Center bribery and kickback trial in Dallas have gotten two very different conclusions from the same medical billing and claims data for certain surgeries that are at the heart of the case. An expert witness for the defense told jurors Monday and Tuesday that her analysis of the data show that surgeries Dr. Michael Rimlawi and Dr. Douglas Won performed at Forest Park fluctuated over the years and revealed no clear patterns. But a government expert told the jury earlier in the trial that her analysis revealed that the doctors' surgeries at Forest Park generally tracked with the amount of marketing money the hospital paid them. Prosecutors allege bribes and kickbacks paid to the doctors were disguised as marketing payments. The more money Forest Park paid the doctors, the more surgeries they performed at the hospital between 2009 and 2012, the government argued. What the data really mean matters in this case because doctors cannot be compensated based on the volume or value of patient referrals to a certain health care facility. Defense attorneys argue that their clients were paid under legitimate "co-marketing agreements" designed to increase business for the hospital as well as its referring doctors. They say the marketing agreements complied with federal law because monthly payments were fixed and not tied to any surgeries, and no quotas were set for the number of surgeries.   Continue reading...

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