Medford Cardio-Thoracic Surgeon and Asante Health System Pay $430,000 To Settle Fraud Allegations
MEDFORD, Ore. — A Medford cardio-thoracic surgeon and the Asante Health System paid a settlement of $430,000 for alleged Medicare fraud a few weeks before the launch of a local police investigation into alleged drug diversion and possible patient-related deaths.
The settlement by Dr Charles Carmeci, who practices at the Medford Rogue Regional Medical Center, and the Asante Health System, was not an admission of ‘liability’, according to a statement released by the U.S. Attorney’s Oregon District Office.
Surgeon and Hospital Under Local Police Investigation
Despite a hefty settlement following allegations of False Claims Act violations by Dr. Carmeci and the Asante Health System, local police have opened an investigation into alleged drug diversion and possible patient-related deaths.
Dr Carmeci, whose name still appears online as a physician at the Medford hospital, was reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigation by a co-worker, open-heart surgeon Dr Nicholas Engstrom, who alleged that Carmeci knowingly submitted claims to Medicare, TRICARE, and Medicaid, for improper cardiothoracic surgeries and that did not meet reimbursement criteria.
Lund Report Revelations
According to the Lund Report, Dr. Engstrom and Dr. Carmeci shared practice from 2015. Dr Engstrom left the Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center in 2021 after hospital management allegedly accused him of violating medical privacy laws. The whistleblower lawsuit was filed under seal the same year, and after an investigation the FBI decided to proceed against Dr. Carmeci and the Asante Health System.
Dr. Engstrom said Dr Carmeci performed unnecessary procedures and submitted bills to government health programs for procedures he never undertook. The Lund Report states that alleged cardiothoracic surgeries undertaken by Dr Carmeci that were improper or did not meet reimbursement criteria were atrial septal defect closures, Bentall procedures, decortications, mediastinal mass resections, patent foramen ovale (hole in the heart), pericardiectomies and PleurX catheter placements (to drain fluid on the lungs). No criminal charges have been brought following the FBI investigations.
Dr Engstrom told investigators he discovered the cardiothoracic surgeon’s questionable practices when Dr. Carmeci was on leave in 2019. His lawsuit alleged that Dr Carmeci said the surgery bill could be inflated by ‘finding’ more holes in a patient’s heart.
The Lund Report also states that Dr. Engstrom said Dr Carmeci allegedly billed a procedure as a hernia revision after removing three stitches from a patient. When he reported Dr Carmeci, Dr. Engstrom was allegedly accused of violating medical privacy laws by hospital management and believed he was subjected to excessive scrutiny and harassment.
Dr. Charles Carmeci
Dr. Carmeci was the highest income earner at Asante Physician Partners in Medford in 2022, receiving $2,108,884, according to the ProPublica’s Nonprofit Explorer database.
According to Asante’s online provider directory, “Find A Doctor”, Dr. Carmeci studied medicine at the Medical College of Virginia at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. He completed his surgery internship at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. He undertook his residency in general surgery, and a surgical oncology research fellowship at Stanford University, and a cardiothoracic surgery fellowship at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. He is board-certified in general, cardiovascular, and thoracic surgery.