Consumer Health Digest #08-46

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
November 11, 2008

Consumer Health Digest is a free weekly e-mail newsletter edited by Stephen Barrett, M.D., and cosponsored by NCAHF and Quackwatch. It summarizes scientific reports; legislative developments; enforcement actions; news reports; Web site evaluations; recommended and nonrecommended books; and other information relevant to consumer protection and consumer decision-making. issues money-saving tips for drug purchases. has issued a free 5-page report on how to save money on prescription drugs. The suggestions include:

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Chiropractors convicted of insurance fraud. Two Georgia chiropractors who improperly billed for spinal decompression therapy have been successfully prosecuted. In 2007, Steven Levine, D.C. and William Stearns, D.C., were accused of using false codes to bill for more than $1.8 million for spinal decompression therapy with a VAX-D machine and about $817,000 for use of a Hako-Med device. (Hako-Med devices are claimed to provide pain relief by administering electrical impulses to the skin.) The indictment stated that after the pair began using VAX-D, they typically applied Hako-Med after each VAX-D treatment. In August, Levine pled guilty to one count of health care fraud related to the VAX-D. This month, a federal jury found Stearns guilty on eighteen charges of health care fraud and five of money laundering. Spinal decompression is widely advertised as a means to relieve back pain. It may provide relief for properly selected patients, but it has not been proven more effective than simple traction. Medicare and many insurance companies don't cover it. Some cover it as a form of mechanical traction, for which they pay far less than the amounts charged by spinal decompression providers. Providers who try to get around this by using billing codes for other procedures (such as surgical decompression) can be prosecuted. [Barrett S. Be wary of spinal decompression therapy with VAX-D or similar devices. Chirobase, Nov 13, 2008]

Chelation therapist settles improper billing case. The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Louisiana has announced that Karen Dantin, M.D., who practices in Baton Rouge, has settled civil allegations that she submitted improper claims to Medicare for chelation therapy. The $10,132 settlement was done under theories of "payment by mistake" and "unjust enrichment." No other public information is available about the case.

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This page was posted on November 13, 2008.