New Jersey board keeps doctor's fraud, alleged terrorist ties, drug-ring charges hidden
It's nice to hear an attorney speak plainly.
New Jersey Deputy Attorney General Debra Conrad said recently, of a doctor accused of selling painkillers to patients he had never examined, that he "is no different than a street-corner drug dealer. He sold drugs to people for money. The only difference is that he did so under cover of his medical practice."
The doctor in question is Dr. Magdy Elamir.
Lindy Washburn at the Bergen Record and NorthJersey.com did a great job detailing Elamir's history of problems:
The Attorney General's Office says he pocketed $50 a pop writing prescriptions for Percocet and Xanax for patients without examining them or asking a single medical question. In the past two decades, the Egyptian immigrant, now 57, founded and plundered his own HMO, lost millions in Medicaid funds and ran several unlicensed MRI centers. He supported the Jersey City mosque where the "blind sheik" preached terrorism, and once hired Michael Chertoff to represent him in the HMO case before Chertoff's stint as Homeland Security czar. He lived on a quiet cul de sac in one of the state's most affluent communities while working in Jersey City, one of its poorest cities.
And Washburn provided an even more valuable service. She showed how all the various pieces of the health regulatory apparatus failed to work together coherently to stop Elamir:
How he managed to stay in business for so long is a mystery. Despite encounters with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, local law enforcement, fraud investigators at several insurance companies, and four state departments - Health, Banking and Insurance, Human Services, and the Attorney General's Office - Elamir continued to practice medicine and receive public and private insurance reimbursements until his arrest. Each agency in New Jersey's fragmented system of medical oversight looked at its piece of the puzzle, but none of them put the whole puzzle together.
Washburn followed up with all of these agencies to find out why Elamir was still practicing until recently and hit multiple dead ends. She also went beyond the phones to get Elamir to comment, visiting his house and his office and tracking him down in court. He did not talk with her, but his attorney said the allegations against him were "off the wall."
The good people of New Jersey are lucky to have a detailed account about Elamir published in the Record. The state Board of Medical Examiners provides no information about Elamir, despite having found reason to suspend his license. Go to the search page for the board's promising sounding "NJ Healthcare Profile", type in Elamir's name and you will see this result:
NJ License Number: 25MA04140400
Initial License Date: 1982
Date of First NJ Licensure: 1982
License Status: Suspended
Status Date: 23-Dec-09
That isn't much of a profile. After all, the New Jersey board on its site writes, "Our goal is to ensure that the public and our licensees have access to services and information vital to the continued delivery of health care in New Jersey." If that is truly the goal, the board should give the public the vital information it deserves.
The board, like the deputy attorney general, should speak plainly.
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