A cardiologist in Florida who has donated more than $450,000 to Democrats has been suspended from receiving Medicare reimbursement payments over "credible allegations of fraud" after reimbursements as far back as 2012 came under scrutiny.
Dr. Asad Qamar, a cardiologist based out of Ocala, Fla., was officially suspended from participating in the program in March, though the suspension was only recently made public. In January, the government intervened in a lawsuit against Qamar filed by whistleblowers who alleged the doctor had defrauded the government.
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According to the Department of Justice, Qamar performed "excessive and medically unnecessary peripheral artery interventional services and affiliated procedures on Medicare patients." Additionally, one lawsuit further alleges that the doctor "induced patients to undergo those unnecessary procedures by routinely waiving the 20 percent Medicare copayment, regardless of the patients’ financial need."
Qamar’s practice, the Institute for Cardiovascular Excellence, was paid $18.2 million from Medicare in 2012, making him the second largest recipient of Medicare reimbursements in the nation that year and by far the largest recipient among cardiology practices in the United States. By way of comparison, a total of 880,664 health care practitioners billed Medicare in 2012 and received an average reimbursement of $87,883.
A little more than 2,000 practitioners received over $2 million in reimbursements, while seven physicians received over $10 million—including Dr. Salomon Melgen, a prominent donor to Sen. Robert Menendez (D., N.J.) who was indicted for Medicare fraud earlier this year. Menendez himself was indicted on federal corruption charges for his dealings with Melgen.
A contractor who monitors potentially fraudulent claims for Medicare placed Qamar on prepayment review in 2012, before the official numbers were released for the year. Physicians under such review are required to show medical records for each billed service.
While scrutiny increased on Qamar, he stepped up his contributions to Democrats. Some of these donations were made in his teenage son’s and daughter’s names.
Among the recipients of contributions from Qamar were the Democratic National Committee; the Obama Victory Fund; Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D., Fla.), for whom he also held a fundraiser at his home in June 2012; Rep. André Carson (D., Ind.); and Rep. Keith Ellison (D., Minn.).
In total, Qamar gave more than $450,000 to Democratic committees, candidates, and state parties in recent years.
In January 2013, Greg Kehoe, a lawyer from Greenberg Traurig, sent a letter to lawmakers on behalf of Dr. Qamar. Kehoe allegedly helped Qamar contact members of Congress asking for help addressing the scrutiny from his Medicare audit, according to the New York Times.
"Some members of Congress made calls on the doctor’s behalf," the Times reported. "A lawyer for the doctor asked Representative André Carson, Democrat of Indiana, for help setting up a meeting with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to discuss the claims review, said Mr. Carson’s spokeswoman, Jennifer Wagner."
Qamar donated $2,500 to Carson in 2012.
The DNC said in May 2014 that they planned on returning at least one of the hefty donations made to the committee. That donation, which totaled $32,400, was made in the name of Qamar’s son, who was only 16 years old at the time. Donations were made in his daughter’s name while she was attending the University of Florida. The contributions in her name amounted to $75,340.
Qamar’s office declined to comment when contacted.