Cardiologist gets jail time for implanting unnecessary pacemakers, defrauding Medicare

A London, Kentucky, cardiologist was sentenced to 42 months in federal prison Oct. 31 after reportedly implanting “dozens” of unnecessary pacemakers and defrauding both his patients and their insurers, U.S. Attorney Robert M. Duncan, Jr., has announced.

Between 2007 and 2011, officials estimate physician Anis Chalhoub, MD, implanted around 234 pacemakers in patients at St. Joseph London hospital. An investigation by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Kentucky found dozens of those procedures were medically unnecessary as defined by established guidelines. As a result, Medicare, Medicaid and other insurers were forced to shell out thousands for procedures they never needed to cover.

“This doctor violated his oath to do no harm,” Derrick L. Jackson, Special Agent in Charge at the U.S. DHHS, said in a release from Duncan's office. “His reckless behavior has earned him jail time for surgically implanting pacemakers that patients did not need in order to fatten his pocket.”

In court earlier this year, patients diagnosed by Chalhoub with sinus node dysfunction—a nonfatal condition—said the cardiologist often pressured them into the procedures or told them they “might die without a pacemaker.” A federal jury found Chalhoub guilty.

Now, U.S. District Court Judge Gregory F. Van Tatenhove has sentenced Chalhoub to three and a half years of prison time, followed by three years’ probation during which time he won’t be permitted to practice medicine. He’s also obligated to pay a $50,000 fine and repay the $257,515 he owes to misled insurers.

“The evidence established that the defendant violated his medical oath and placed greed over patient care,” Duncan said in the release. “The defendant performed unnecessary medical procedures and needlessly put lives at risk so that he could submit false claims seeking reimbursement for the unnecessary medical procedures. Our office ... will continue to aggressively pursue medical professionals who are willing to so callously risk the health and safety of others.”