Neurologist and Attorney Dr. James C. Johnston is not surprised that Tenet Hospital was indicted again in 2017 for insurance fraud in an ongoing investigation by the FBI Healthcare Fraud Unit, Department of Justice and Office of the Inspector General. Just a few months ago Tenet plead guilty to insurance fraud, sham contracts, bribes and kickbacks, paying the Department of Justice over $516 million to settle criminal and civil charges. For the past two decades Tenet has repeatedly entered settlements with the government over insurance fraud, illegal kickbacks and related crimes, paying several billion in fines, earning the label as “one of the most despicable healthcare companies in the United States.” A simple google search of ‘Tenet fraud’ leads to thousands of articles on this company’s appalling misbehavior and abuse of patients.
In fact, 26 years ago, in 1991, Dr. Johnston was practicing in Texas at one of the Tenet Hospitals, at that time a chain of 116 hospitals that engaged in insurance fraud, bribes, kickbacks and performed unnecessary surgeries and procedures. Dr. Johnston refused to participate in the fraudulent schemes, referred his patients to other hospitals, and contacted the Department of Justice with a whistle-blower complaint against Tenet hospitals.
A hospital-based group of four physicians, one already repaying the government for Medicare insurance fraud, retaliated with an extortion attempt, bribing several workers’ compensation patients to make false allegations against him. The physician involved in Medicare fraud was married to the district attorney, who filed specious charges against Dr. Johnston that culminated in a lengthy court battle. At the time, terrible things were said about Dr. Johnston. The New York Times printed a biased story before the conclusion of this ordeal.
In the end, Dr. Johnston prevailed – Judge Barbara Marquardt heard all the evidence at trial and dismissed the false allegations against him as “pure fiction,” declaring him innocent of any wrongdoing. The Texas Medical Board also reviewed all the evidence and cleared Dr. Johnston of any misconduct or illegal act, found him innocent, and concluded that he maintained the highest professional standards, exceeding the standard of care. So did every other medical board where Dr. Johnston held a license. The New York Times refused to print a follow up story on Judge Marquardt’s findings or the final medical board decision, leaving their misleading story languishing on the internet for the past quarter of a century.
Dr. Johnston’s complaints, along with those of several other physicians at various Tenet Hospitals between 1991-1994 led the Department of Justice, FBI and Office of the Inspector General to investigate, eventually forcing Tenet to sell off a number of hospitals and pay a $900 million fine for billing fraud and related illegal activities. Several of the doctors making false accusations against Dr. Johnston lost their medical licenses, had to repay the government for fraud, and one ended up in prison. The district attorney and his assistant were investigated by the FBI and resigned from office.
The medical community members that know the whole story hold the highest respect for Dr. Johnston – he made a huge personal sacrifice to do the right thing, and stand up for his patients. James C. Johnston, MD, JD has practiced neurology for 30 years and his reputation as a physician, attorney and member of the community is absolutely spotless.