by John R. Fischer
, Senior Reporter | May 01, 2023
A former neurosurgeon in Washington state has agreed to pay nearly $1.2 million to settle allegations that he performed unnecessary spinal procedures that led to permanent damage in patients, and billed Medicare, Medicaid, and other federal healthcare programs.
Dr. Jason Dreyer, who was employed at Providence St. Mary’s Medical Center, in Walla Walla, owned and operated by Providence Health & Services Washington, allegedly caused patients to suffer permanent spinal and nerve damage that left at least one unable to work and then submitted payment requests that did not meet the requirements for federal and state reimbursement.
The class action suit alleges numerous examples of unnecessary procedures, including a cervical surgery that left a patient who came in with lower back pain unable to work.
Providence Health & Services, which paid over $22 million in April 2022 to resolve the allegations against it for its part, admitted that medical staff voiced concerns that Dreyer and another former neurosurgeon, Dr. Daniel Elskens, were performing unnecessary operations that put patient safety at risk.
Per his settlement agreement, Dreyer will pay $1,174,849 and will voluntarily refrain from seeking reimbursement from Medicare, Medicaid, and other federal healthcare programs for at least nine years.
The settlement is not an admission of liability or fault on this part, but says that the government has civil claims against him under the False Claims Act, the Medicaid Fraud False Claims Act, the Fraudulent Practices Act, and common law for allegedly engaging in the covered conduct.
"Patients with spinal injuries and back pain deserve top-notch care from a doctor who puts patients and their safety first,” said Vanessa Waldref, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, in a statement.
After being placed on leave, Dreyer resigned in 2018, going on to work for Multicare Health Systems between 2019 and 2021 as a neurosurgeon at Deaconess Hospital and Multicare Rockwood Clinic, both in Spokane.
As with Providence Health & Services Washington, Multicare Health Systems paid him based on a productivity measurement, compensating him additionally for performing more surgeries and for procedures that were highly complex.
The Washington State Department of Health’s Board of Osteopathic Medicine and Surgery barred Dreyer in March 2021 from performing spinal surgeries, leading Dreyer to resign from MultiCare that November.
Elskens is also currently embroiled in a wrongful death suit related to a patient in Ohio, according to the Sandusky Register
Several agencies under the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Washington, the State of Washington, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management cooperated in the investigation in Washington.