U.S. fraud charges against former Temple doctor

Posted: January 26, 2011

Joseph J. Kubacki, the former chair of the Temple University School of Medicine ophthalmology department, was charged Tuesday with fraud and making false statements in health-care matters in a 144-count indictment from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Kubacki, a pediatric eye specialist, is accused of falsely claiming between 2002 and 2007 to have provided more than $1.5 million in services to patients at a clinic run by the ophthalmology department. The indictment says Kubacki, who had an office at Temple University Hospital, made notations in the charts of patients, seen by other doctors, indicating that he also had seen and evaluated those patients - when he hadn't. In some cases, he wasn't even in town when the patients were seen.

His false statements, the government said, allowed Temple to bill Medicare and other insurance companies for more than $1.5 million.

Kubacki did not return a phone call. His lawyer, Judson Aaron, said he was still reviewing the indictment and couldn't comment. Kubacki left Temple in 2007, and the indictment says he is working at Emerald Coast Eye Institute in Fort Walton Beach, Fla.

Now 61 and living in Destin, Fla., Kubacki had been on salary at Temple. But his bonuses were tied to the amount of revenue he generated by seeing patients, the indictment said. It added that he had asked repeatedly for higher pay on the basis of the financial performance of the ophthalmology department.

According to the indictment, medical residents in the clinic tried to avoid Kubacki when they needed the opinion of a more experienced doctor, "in part due to their concerns that Kubacki regularly abused alcohol on days that he worked at the main campus" of the hospital.

Temple is not named in the indictment. Neither the Department of Justice nor Temple University would address whether Temple had repaid any of the extra money collected through Kubacki's allegedly false claims.

The indictment says Temple regularly trained doctors, including Kubacki, in proper billing procedures. It says an employee identified as A.P. told Kubacki more than once that if a doctor signed a chart of a patient the doctor didn't actually see, "the doctor was committing fraud, could lose his license, and go to jail."

In a written statement, Temple said that, after investigating "concerns" about Kubacki's conduct, it "severed its relationship with Dr. Kubacki in November 2007 and promptly reported its findings to the [U.S.] Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General. The university has since implemented additional measures to safeguard against such misconduct from recurring and is cooperating with the government in its investigation."

If convicted, Kubacki would face prison time, a fine of $36 million, and mandatory restitution.

Contact staff writer Stacey Burling at 215-854-4944 or sburling@phillynews.com.

comments powered by Disqus