A former patient of a disgraced Oakland Township oncologist who is the target of federal Medicare fraud investigation after he allegedly misdiagnosed patients and prescribed unnecessary drugs testified Wednesday at a U.S. Senate hearing on efforts to crack down on schemes to defraud the government.
The patient, Patricia Gresko, 70, of Romeo was a patient of Dr. Farid Fata, the Detroit Free Press reports. She told the Senate Special Committee on Aging that Fata diagnosed her with an immune system deficiency and ordered monthly intravenous treatments that other doctors later told her were unnecessary because the antibody her system lacked couldn’t be replaced, the newspaper said.
“This doctor was personable and dignified, and I trusted him. I thought, like all doctors, he would have my best interests at heart,” Gresko said, according to an advance copy of her testimony provided to the Free Press. “Over the course of seven months, I had paid this doctor over $1,500 in co-pays. I later found out he had received over $14,000 (from Medicare) for giving me these treatments.”
Also testifying was Bettie Hughes, a regional coordinator with the Senior Alliance, a nonprofit organization that provides services to seniors in southern and western Wayne County.
Working with sister groups, the Senior Alliance created the Medicare Patrol that she said worked with similar groups to identify fraud and save $100 million nationwide. The group helps educate Medicare beneficiaries and protect themselves against fraud, including schemes for unnecessary treatments, MRIs and CAT scans.
“We need to find better ways of identifying who these fraudsters are, and keeping them from marketing their schemes to some of our most vulnerable seniors,” she said.
Fata, Gresko’s former oncologist, was arraigned last month in U.S. District Court on federal money laundering charges, the latest in a string of legal troubles for the physician. It was the fourth federal indictment for the physician, who is accused of bilking Medicare for about $225 million.
Fata has denied the charges.
Fata has been held in a federal prison in Milan since his Aug. 6 arrest on fraud charges. A judge ruled Fata, a naturalized U.S. citizen who is a native of Lebanon, a flight risk and revoked his $9 million bond. His trial is expected this summer.
Federal authorities claim he fraudulently billed Medicare for $225 million from August 2007 to July 2013 and that some patients were repeatedly exposed to powerful drugs even though they didn’t have cancer.