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A chain of Cleveland-area medical clinics that specialize in treating injured workers and prescribing opioids is at the center of a 170-count indictment filed Wednesday by a grand jury in Ohio’s Cuyahoga County’s criminal court division.
The 77-page court document charges that between 2008 and 2014, The Medical Care Group, former clinic co-owner Dianne Javier and treating physician Dr. Stephen Bernie systematically defrauded Ohio’s Bureau of Workers’ Compensation by billing it for procedures that were never done and by inflating the percentage of disability for injured workers, making them eligible for higher payments from the state.
The indictment also charges that the defendants handed out prescriptions for medications, including opioids, without examining or monitoring the patients requesting them.
Dr. Bernie and the business are named in all 170 counts of the indictment. Ms. Javier is named in 75 counts. The charges include worker’s compensation fraud, conspiracy, telecommunications fraud, drug trafficking, tampering with records and theft.
As part of an investigation between 2008 and 2014, “undercover agents and a confidential informant saw (Dr.) Bernie month after month and never received a proper medical examination. Dr. Bernie said he conducted injured worker examinations when he did not. Dr. Bernie signed prescriptions that were passed out to injured workers/patients when Dr. Bernie was on vacation,” the indictment states.
The allegations cost the state approximately $216,000, according to a joint press statement from the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.
Mr. DeWine drew a connection to the state’s well-documented opiate epidemic in the press statement announcing the charges. “Blatant improper prescribing, such as what is alleged in this case, is contributing to the drug crisis,” he said.
About one in nine patients who are prescribed opioids for chronic pain test positive for illicit drug use, according to a study released Thursday.