Bamboozled: Medical records caught, then untangled from red tape

Sometimes crime investi- gations have unintended consequences.BB branding

The state has accused Rehan “Ray” Zubari of masterminding a Medicaid fraud and kickback scheme that allegedly raked in $8 million through 30,000 fraudulent Medicaid claims. His company, Diagnostic Imaging Affiliates—which owns 10 imaging facilities in central and northern New Jersey—is at the focus of the probe.

Zubari had pleaded guilty and served jail time in a separate Medicaid fraud case in 1998.

This time around, Zubari, who authorities said had more than $100,000 in cash at his 9,000 square-foot Boonton Township mansion and paid for a $400,000 2014 Lamborghini with a cashier’s check, was charged with first-degree racketeering and released on $1 million bail in June, the Attorney General’s office said.

Then immigration charges landed him back in Essex County jail last week, and authorities said he’s expected to stay there until the new criminal charges are resolved.

Back to those unintended consequences.

Patients of Zubari’s diagnostic imaging centers say they’ve had a hard time getting copies of their medical records.

“It all began the first week in July when I called to schedule my yearly mammogram,” said Loren Katsakos, who was a patient of Montville Imaging Centers, one of Zubari’s companies. “The phone just rang and rang.”

When she found out the center was closed for a fraud investiga- tion, she embarked on a bureau- cratic journey to get copies of her past test results, which are especially important for mam- mograms so doctors can com- pare test results over time.

Katsakos, who has had a history of breast problems and a lumpectomy, made an appoint- ment at a different imaging center.

After her exam, she was told
she’d need to return for a follow-up, and the radiologist stressed the importance of getting her old images.

Katsakos tried to get answers.

“I contacted the Morris Countbb sept 15 01y Victim/ Witness Services, Office of the Prosecutor

and left a message asking if they could help me get my records from the FBI, which is where I thought the records were,” she said. “I never received a call back.”

Then in late August, she read a story in

The Star-Ledger that said the records were with the state, and that patients could get copies by contacting the Department of Health.

Katsakos said she called and was told to file a complaint, so she did.

The next morning she received a call instructing her to call different number, this one with the Division of Criminal Justice.

“This number was a recording for imaging patients. It asked that I leave my name, date of birth, the films I wanted, along with contact information,” she said. “In addition, the message asked that I fax a release request.”

Katsakos said she left a message with all the requested information and faxed a release to the number provided on the voice message.

That was on Aug. 28, and Katsakos said she still hasn’t been contacted.

“Why keep the patients in the dark, especially women who rely on prior mammograms for accurate diagnoses?” she said. “I have received no letters from the state about this. The lack of communication is frustrating.”

Katsakos isn’t the only patient seeking records. She said her mother-in-law shares the same predicament, as does her colleague, Renee Lavin.

Lavin, too, had a lumpectomy, and when she called Montville Imaging to make her annual appointment, she learned the facility was closed.

“There was nothing on the message saying how to get your medical records,” she said.

Lavin has an appointment next week at a new imaging center, but she knows accurate diagnoses and comparisons will be next to impossible without her old films.

Tracking it down

We looked into the state’s case against Zubari—which is when we learned he was being held on the new immigration charges— and then we tracked down the right person in the state.

The Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor, part of the Attorney General’s office, is working the case.

A spokesman said patients who need copies of medical scans should call (609) 777-3625 and provide their name, date of birth, the type of test, the date of the test, the body part tested and a mailing address where the records can be sent.

“We believe patient access to their records is critical and we have assigned staff whose sole day-to-day responsibilities are to be responsive to records requests,” he said, noting patients with a time sensitive needs should say so when they call.

The phone number is the same one Katsakos called. We wondered what the holdup was in responding to her request and why she didn’t hear back.

“We determined that the most efficient way to address the requests was to call back patients in the event their requests lacked some pertinent information,” he said. “Ms. Kataskos had provided all the information and had not indicated her request was emergent. She was on track to receive her records.”

We also asked why patients hadn’t received notice from the state.

The spokesman said investigators only seized materials that were necessary to prove the crime the state was alleging.

“We did not necessarily seize a document such as a master patient list or paper patient files that could quickly make available patient contact information,” he said, noting that the state’s examination of the company’s “massive and sophisticated computer servers” continues.

We asked how many patients were affected, but the spokesman said it’s too early to tell.

“It is our assumption that the records we are bb sept 15 02reviewing contain test results from every patient the company has tested since its opening in 2005,” he said.

That’s sure to be a whole lot of patients.

We went back to Katsakos, and she called the number again. This time the line was answered by a real person.

The rep said the records were being held by a third-party company, and she’d call Katsakos back by the end of the day, Katsakos said.

“I can see them all piled in boxes somewhere,” she said while she waited. “I asked how long it would take to find and she said, ‘I don’t know.'”

But in a few hours, the rep did call back. The records were found, and a CD with the images would be mailed to Katsakos by the end of the day.

“I’m not going to fault the rep—she was very nice—but why don’t we openly give people information? The process is wrong,” she said. “I’m just one person at one imaging center. Imagine how many others?”

Then Katsakos’ co-worker Lavin made the call, and she said she was told Lavin would receive the images in the mail in a couple of days—in time for her appointment next week.

Thanks to the state for getting these important records to these patients. Still, we have a suggestion.

If a mass mailing to patients isn’t possible now, maybe looking at the phone numbers for the imaging centers is a good alternative. Perhaps, if the numbers are still active, the state could leave a message for patients with instructions on how to obtain their records even though the imagine centers are closed.

Just a thought.

Have you been Bamboozled? Contact Karin Price Mueller at Bamboozled@NJAdvanceMedia.com

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