Wednesday, April 13, 2011

High medical costs:Surgeons get kickbacks for spinal fusion surgery

Wall Street Journal

A Portland, Ore., neurosurgeon who performed multiple spinal fusions on the same patients lost his operating privileges at the hospital where he did many of his surgeries and is under investigation by the Oregon Medical Board.

The latest developments came as new information emerged about the medical-device distributorship that supplies Dr. Makker with spinal implants. The distributor, Omega Solutions of Fresno, Calif., sometimes pays surgeons to use its products, according to a document reviewed by the Journal that Omega recently sent to surgeons it sought to recruit.

The document says that the company enters into partnerships with surgeons who agree to use its products and pays them "dividends" based on the number of surgeries they perform. Critics say such arrangements are controversial because they can skew medical decision-making.

The document details the cash payments made to one of Omega's partners, an unnamed spine surgeon in Los Angeles. From Jan. 1, 2009, to May 19, 2010, the surgeon received a total of $519,674.35 based on his use of Omega implants in two to three surgeries a week, the document says.

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