Doctors Behaving Badly: New Jersey board smears good doc with another's crimes
Pity Dr. Benjamin Levine, a rheumatologist licensed in New Jersey, who, by all accounts, has done nothing but a fine job since earning his medical license in 2005.
Levine happens to have the same name as a family practice doctor with a long history of molesting patients and defrauding insurance companies. And, because the Medical Board of New Jersey does such a lousy job of providing the public information on the doctors it has disciplined, it gives people the mistaken impression that the Squeaky Clean Dr. Levine is actually the Former Inmate Dr. Levine.
Here's how it happens.
A patient goes to see the rheumatologist. They tell their friend, "I'm seeing Dr. Benjamin Levine, and he's doing wonders for my arthritis." The well-meaning friend says, "I think I read about him in the newspaper. He might have done something funny with some female patients. You better check him out."
So the patient does. She reads this story in the Courier News:
A Middlesex County jury has convicted an East Brunswick doctor of practicing medicine without a license and stealing money from Medicare and insurance carriers. Benjamin Levine, 69, was also found guilty of theft by deception, two counts of falsifying records and insurance fraud. Levine's attorney, Christopher Campbell, told jurors that the state medical board was aware of Levine's situation and did nothing about it, negating the intent necessary for Levin's actions or lack of them to be considered a crime. Levine was convicted of molesting nine female patients in 1996, landing him in jail for 180 days.
The state medical board suspended Levine's license for two years in 1991 in connection with the molestation incidents and reinstated his license on a probationary basis in 1993, requiring him to have a registered nurse present for all his physical examinations. He was charged in another molestation case in 2006 after being accused by a female patient, but was acquitted in February.
After reading this story, the patient then goes to the New Jersey Board of Medical Examiners' website, and sees a link for "Find Your Doctor." She types in "Benjamin Levine" and only one name pops up: Benjamin Levine, rheumatologist. This must be the guy! She cancels her next appointment.
If you spend more time on the medical board's frustrating site, the confusion only deepens.
Right below the link for "Find Your Doctor" is a link for "Licensee Search." It asks you to fill in the "Profession." Here, patients will find two Drs. Levine, though no clue as to which is which. The site indicates that one Levine had his license revoked at some point, maybe in 2003, although we can't be certain. The page says that the doctor has been subject to a "board action," but then says, "Please visit DCA's website to see the final disposition documents." There is no link provided. If you Google "New Jersey DCA," this is what you get. Not much help unless you are looking for a break on your power bill.
Final question: What does the other Dr. Levine think about all this? He now works in New York, and when I tracked him down at his office, he said that he, too, was concerned about the possibility of mistaken identities. "I read about him, and was a little worried. It's not a simple case. It would be much better if the board made it clear that there are two of us but only one of us has been disciplined." Levine said that other websites now draw on both doctor's profiles to give patients the impression that there is just one doctor, him, with a disciplinary record. "With the internet, it's so easy for information like this to cause a lot of confusion. It should be easier for patients to know who is who."
To see the disciplined Dr. Benjamin Levine, and others, on the Doctors Behaving Badly Google map, click here.
To inquire or to quibble, write askantidote [at] gmail [dot] com.
The Doctors Behaving Badly tour thus far: