Vanessa R. Waldref, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, and Bob Ferguson, the Washington State Attorney General, have announced that Providence Health & Services Washington has agreed to pay nearly $22.7 million to resolve allegations that it fraudulently billed Medicare, Medicaid, and other federal health care programs for medically unnecessary neurosurgery procedures performed by Dr. Jason Dreyer and Dr. Daniel Elskens. The settlement is the largest-ever health care fraud settlement in the Eastern District of Washington.
As part of the Settlement, Providence signed a settlement agreement that included stipulated facts. Included in the stipulated facts were the following concessions:
- Prior to Providence allowing Dr. Dreyer and Dr. Elskens to resign and move on to new hospitals Providence personnel had articulated concerns regarding (1) the quality of care provided by Dr. Dreyer and Dr. Elskens; and, (2) the medical necessity of surgical procedures performed by the two neurosurgeons.
- Providence personnel had articulated concerns that Dr. Dreyer and/or Dr. Elskens:
(1) completed medical documentation with falsified, exaggerated, and/or inaccurate diagnoses that did not accurately reflect the patient’s true medical condition in order to obtain reimbursement for surgical procedures;
(2) performed certain surgical procedures that did not meet the medical necessity guidelines and requirements for reimbursement set forth by Medicare and other government health insurance programs;
(3) “over-operated”, i.e., performed a surgery of greater complexity and scope than was indicated and medically appropriate; and
(4) jeopardized patient safety by attempting to perform an excessive number of overly complex surgeries;
(5)endangered the safety of SMMC patients;
(6) created an excessive level of complications, negative outcomes, and necessary additional operations as a result of their surgeries;
(7) performed surgical procedures on certain candidates who were not appropriate candidates for surgery given their medical histories, conditions, and contraindications; and
(8) failed to adequately and accurately document certain procedures, diagnoses, and complications.
Additionally, although Providence eventually placed Dr. Dreyer and Dr. Elskens on administrative leave, they then allowed both of the doctors to resign and took no action to report them to the authorities as required by regulation and statute.
The above noted agreed facts provide strong support that Dr. Dreyer and Dr. Elsken repeatedly violated the standard of care for a neurosurgeon; violated the trust relationship with patients; violated their professional code of ethics; and violated state and federal law. Remarkably, Providence allowed the two neurosurgeons to continue performing unnecessary surgeries and endangering the lives of Providence patients even after they became aware of the concerns. Even more egregious is the fact that Providence administrators chose not to report the two out of control surgeons to the Department of Health or the National Practitioners Database; choosing instead to allow both of the doctors to resign and move on to new positions.
The Federal False Claims act investigation is not the only investigation ongoing in respect to Dr. Dreyer. The Washington State Department of Health’s Medical Quality Assurance Commission is investigating Dr. Dreyer based upon a whistleblower complaint submitted by a fellow neurosurgeon employed by a hospital not affiliated with Providence Health and Services Washington. The Whistleblower submitted the complaint after analyzing 11 cases referred to him for followup services after surgical procedures conducted by Dr. Jason Dreyer. In this complaint, the Whistleblower states, “In reviewing these 11 cases, several themes became obvious and should to you as well:”
- First theme: “[R]epeatedly, imaging studies are reported as showing dynamic instability when in fact they do not.” The whistleblower surmises this is done to secure insurance approval and justification for fusion surgery in order to generate income.
- Second theme: the general overstatement of what was actually carried out in the procedure. Here, the whistleblower questions whether Dr. Dreyer completed the surgeries he reports.
- Third theme: Dr. Dreyer’s notes are very similar. “This templated, nearly identical format and wording to the notes raises serious questions in my mind as to what was actually found on exam, reviewed or performed.”
The Whistleblower goes on to state: “I am fairly certain with Dr. Dreyer that these  cases are a ‘tip of the iceberg’ problem and there are likely hundreds of similar cases. There were other cases that I encountered early on that I felt were done for poor indications, but I did not start collecting them until the trends became obvious.”
He notes, “It is my understanding that Dr. Dreyer has left Providence St. Mary’s. The other neurosurgeon there, Dr. David Yam, has apparently given his resignation last week as well and is moving on to OHSU. It has been common knowledge that Dr. Dreyer was on leave … with no return date, but I understand he is not coming back. We have not been informed as to the reasons despite efforts to find out at the system level what happened. … I don’t want this kicked down the road as is often done by hospitals who fear litigation by the provider…”
He states, “It has taken some time for me to get to the point of reporting these formally. I have confidentially brought my concerns up with several administrators in the system in the hopes that something might change and perhaps this is what led up to these neurosurgeons departing, I don’t know.”
In his closing statements, the Whistleblower hits the nail directly on the head when he states, “The motivating factor here in these cases, in my opinion, is pure and simple greed.”
These two physicians were out of control. They repeatedly operated below the standard of care, violated their Hippocratic Oath, their professional ethical obligations, and state and federal law. As a result, hundreds of patients have been permanently disabled – and will spend the rest of their lives suffering with constant debilitating pain and discomfort. Hundreds of lives destroyed over the greed of two surgeons and their unethical corporate handlers.
Because Dr. Dreyer was allowed to move on and work for another hospital, his practice of conducting unnecessary surgeries continued. Predictably, this ultimately led to Dr. Dreyer conducting more unnecessary surgeries and endangering more patients.
That’s what happened to Gilbert Law Firm’s client Dr. Deanette Palmer, who underwent disastrous cervical spinal surgery at MultiCare in September of 2020. Gilbert filed a lawsuit on behalf of Palmer against both MultiCare and Dr. Dreyer. In fact, the Gilbert Law Firm is now representing 21 clients whose lives have been destroyed by Dr. Dreyer.
According to MultiCare, it terminated Dreyer in 2021 after his license was restricted “due to alleged transgressions at the provider’s previous place of employment.”
We at the Gilbert Law Firm have the utmost respect for medical doctors and all healthcare providers. 95% of our healthcare providers are passionate, committed, ethical patient advocates who give tirelessly to our communities. Unfortunately, on the darker side of the profession lays the other 5% – the greedy, unscrupulous providers and corporate managers who care little about the lives they destroy as long as they are making money. It’s this 5% that the Gilbert Law Firm targets. With the help of top medical experts from across the country, we intend to put a stop to this pattern of behavior. We will get justice for clients whose lives have been destroyed by greedy, unethical physicians and their unscrupulous corporate handlers.
[ORIGINAL 2021 BLOG BELOW:]
Spinal surgery is about as high-stakes as surgeries can get. There’s no reason to recommend that someone undergo such an invasive and dangerous operation if it’s not absolutely necessary– and yet that’s just what Dr. Jason Dreyer is accused of doing, for profit.
Dr. Dreyer, a neurosurgeon at the MultiCare Rockwood Clinic Neurosurgery and Spine Center in Spokane, had his license suspended by the Washington Board of Osteopathic Medicine and Surgery on March 12. He has until April 1 to appeal the decision, and during that time, he’s not able to perform any surgeries.
Under the right circumstances, a pattern of unnecessary surgeries like this could be grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit. In fact, a former patient who suffered from further injury to her spine and spinal nerves as a result of a risky surgery is suing Dr. Dreyer for negligent and unnecessary surgery.
Below, experienced medical malpractice attorney Bill Gilbert analyzes the situation from an expert’s perspective, and offers some thoughts on how to hold surgeons who abuse their position like Dr. Dreyer accountable.
All doctors have a duty of care to not cause further harm to their patients. If they breach this duty of care, they may be liable for medical malpractice.
There are many types of negligent acts that can be considered medical malpractice, from intentional harm to thoughtless mistakes. Under some circumstances, pressuring a patient to undergo dangerous and unnecessary surgery could be grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Here are a few examples of situations that might fall under this category:
- a misdiagnosis that results in a surgery not needed for the patient’s condition or illness
- a surgical mistake such as operating on the wrong part of the body
- operating on a patient without their informed consent
- recommending surgery that is not medically necessary for financial gain
The most important thing for a plaintiff and their attorney to do in a medical malpractice case is demonstrate that the medical professional acted negligently, and breached their duty of care to their patient.
Allegations against Dr. Dreyer
On March 15, Cyde Estes, a former patient of Dr. Dreyer’s, filed a “medical malpractice action for damages caused by an unnecessary and negligent surgery” against Dr. Dreyer.
Estes alleges that the surgery caused permanent neurological damage to her lower spine and has resulted in severe pain and a loss of mobility.
In addition to recommending she undergo a surgery that she now views as medically unnecessary, Estes claims that Dr. Dreyer billed her for procedures that he never actually performed during the surgery.
Clyde Estes’s account of her experiences could easily establish that Dr Dreyer’s actions were motivated by a financial incentive to perform surgeries on as many patients as possible.
Another former patient, while not currently involved in a medical malpractice lawsuit, reported to KREM2 a similar experience of feeling pressured to undergo a surgery he was not comfortable with.
According to Aws Alwater, Dr. Dreyer emphasized the potential benefits of his surgery and downplayed its risks when advising him on how to treat his back injury.
If Alwater’s account is true, Dr. Dreyer could potentially be liable for operating on a patient without their informed consent.
Contact a Spokane medical malpractice attorney if you have claims against Dr. Dreyer
At the Gilbert Law Firm, we don’t have all the facts yet. We only know what’s in the papers and public court documents. But from where we’re sitting, it looks like Dr. Dreyer has been taking advantage of his position as a respected neurosurgeon to push unnecessary spinal surgeries on his patients for financial gain.
Our team of medical malpractice attorneys has experience with holding negligent doctors like Dr. Dreyer accountable and making sure our clients are compensated for their injuries.
If you had an experience with Dr. Dreyer, or with any medical professional that you believe acted in a negligent way, don’t hesitate to contact us and schedule a free consultation as soon as possible.
Disclaimer: The blog published by the Gilbert Law Firm marketing team for informational purposes only and is not considered legal advice or a substitute for legal advice. There is no attorney-client relationship between the reader and the blog publisher. Readers are urged to consult their own legal counsel on any specific legal questions concerning a specific situation.