Consumer Health Digest #08-48

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
November 25, 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.

Quackbooster nominated for HHS Secretary. Tom Daschle, who is President-Elect Barack Obama's nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services, provided strong support to unscientific practitioners while serving in the U.S. Congress from 1979-2003. During several sessions, he was a prime supporter of "access to treatment" legislation intended to weaken state licensing boards. A 1997 version, for example, would have given individuals the right to have nearly any desired treatment and permitted practitioners to provide any treatment that would not pose an "unreasonable risk." Although couched as efforts to preserve patient freedom, such bills would thwart regulation of physicians who engage in quack practices such as chelation therapy. Daschle also spearheaded the passage of laws that increased Medicare payments to chiropractors and forced the U.S. Veterans Administration to add chiropractic services.

Autism clinic criticized. Autism Watch has posted a detailed investigative report about CARE Clinics, of Austin, Texas, and its "nonprofit" twin, the Center for Autistic Spectrum Disorders (CASD). CARE 's diagnostic evaluations, which cost at least $9,000 per patient, feature genetic tests that supposedly serve as a guide to "detoxification" and "correction of biomedical imbalances." However, the recommended tests and treatments are unsubstantiated and lack a plausible rationale. [Barrett S. Be wary of CARE Clinics and the Center for Autistic Spectrum Disorders (CASD). Autism Watch, Nov 25, 2008] CARE's medical director, Jesus Caquias, M.D., has been disciplined twice by the Texas Board of Medicine.

Newspaper ombudsman raps ad for "free" discount card. Ted Vaden, Public Editor of the Raleigh, North Carolina News & Observer, has criticized the newspaper's advertising department for accepting a full-page ad headlined, "Cut off set for free Universal Health Card" that was published on November 18th. [Vaden T. 'Free health card' is confusing. News & Observer, Nov 23, 2008] The ad, which has run in other newspapers, claims that the Universal Health Card offers "affordable care provided by 561,000 doctors, dentists, pharmacists, and hospitals." Vaden noted:

Several other investigators have described similar misrepresentations:

Chiropractor's license suspended for not reporting fraud. David E. Fellerman, D.C., of Kingston, Pennsylvania, has had his license suspended for at least one year, during which he must write an article that would serve as a warning to other chiropractors. Fellerman got into trouble while working with Robert G. Bittenbender, D.C., who submitted bogus insurance claims between 1999 and 2003 and failed to file federal income tax returns from 2002 through 2004. Bittenbender's indictment states that he billed Pennsylvania Blue Cross BlueShield for more than $130,000 for services he falsely claimed to have given to a family member and several employees and another $70,000 for services Fellerman allegedly provided to him and his then minor child. Fellerman cooperated with the prosecutors, pled guilty to misprision of felony, and was ordered to serve two years of probation and to pay restitution of $69,588. Bittenbender was convicted in a jury trial of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, mail fraud, and tax evasion, for which he was ordered to pay $311,494.50 in restitution and sentenced to 46 months in prison plus three years of supervised release. Bittenbender, who graduated from Sherman College of Straight Chiropractic in 1995, defaulted on his student loan and owes $29,770. He is appealing his guilty verdict.

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This page was posted on November 26, 2008.