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Fla. doc faces 200 counts of health care fraud

April 24, 2014
Associated Press

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — A Gainesville doctor surrendered this week after she was charged with more than 200 counts of health care fraud for allegedly charging the government full price for prescription drugs, even though she was giving patients cheaper drugs not approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

U.S. Attorney's officials said Ona Colasante, 57, turned herself in Tuesday after being indicted by a grand jury.

Colasante "misleadingly" billed Medicare, Medicaid, and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida for medical tests, including colonoscopies, X-rays, and hearing tests that patients didn't need. She also billed for substance abuse counseling, smoking cessation and other treatments that patients never received, authorities said.

She used that money to buy less expensive non-FDA-approved drugs and devices online from Canada and other countries, including mislabeled birth control devices and osteoporosis drugs, according to the indictment.

The doctor then charged the government for administering those drugs, according to the indictment. Officials said Colasante gave the drugs to patients without their knowledge or consent.

A message left for her attorney was not immediately returned Thursday.

Her case is unusual in that authorities usually target high dollar scams. The indictment did not include how much the doctor allegedly billed the government programs for. But her practice billed Medicare for a relatively low dollar amount in 2012, according to federal health officials. She billed just over $55,000 compared to the state's top two billers, a West Palm Beach ophthalmologist who billed nearly $21 million and an Ocala cardiologist who billed $18 million.

In a January blog post, the doctor details how she was forced to close her practice after the FBI raided her office in 2011 and that her bank account had been frozen. In the blogs, she says she has no idea why prosecutors were targeting her, expressing that her case has been in limbo for years.

"The power of the government — the power of one prosecutor — to destroy a person's world, a profession built up over decades," she writes.

A trial is set for June. If convicted, she faces 10 years in prison for each of the health care fraud counts.

 
 

 

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