The state Attorney General’s office has charged a Brookline doctor in a Medicaid fraud scheme, while his Vineyard Haven office that specializes in outpatient drug and alcohol treatment has closed.
Dr. Punyamurtula Kishore, 61, was arrested at his home last week and arraigned on a charge of Medicaid kickbacks in Malden district court, where he pleaded not guilty, according to Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office. Dr. Kishore owns and manages Preventive Medicine Associates Inc., a string of 29 medical offices throughout the state, including Vineyard Healthcare Associates Inc., on State Road.
Island health care professionals said this week that VHA’s closure leaves a hole in the Island’s safety net of diverse services for patients fighting drug or alcohol addiction.
In a press release, the attorney general alleged a kickback scheme that involved $500,000 in taxpayer funds. More specifically, she said, Dr. Kishore would “funnel drug screen business to his laboratories and then bill MassHealth for those services.”
Harry Pierre, a spokesman for the attorney general, declined to comment on whether the alleged scheme involved the Vineyard Haven office, but said the investigation is ongoing.
Ms. Coakley alleged that Dr. Kishore “orchestrated a criminal ‘kickback’ scheme to have various sober homes send patients to his laboratories to perform ‘medically necessary’ urine drug screen testing of Medicaid eligible residents.” Drug screens, according to the release, are often billed to MassHealth at approximately $100 to $200.
Dr. Kishore was originally held on $150,000 cash bail, but after a hearing late last week he was released and ordered to wear a GPS bracelet and forfeit his passport, said Mr. Pierre. Dr. Kishore is an Indian citizen who has worked in the United States on a green card for several years.
This week, the Vineyard Healthcare Associates office had a sign on its front door that said it “will not be open until further notice.”
“We are terribly sorry for any inconvenience due to circumstances beyond our control,” the sign said, listing a 24-hour hotline for Dr. Kishore. That number, however, was not in service yesterday. It was unclear whether those “circumstances” were Dr. Kishore’s arrest or problems at the office that predated the arrest.
Recent published reports from Boston’s South Shore down to the Cape reflected comments from disgruntled employees at Dr. Kishore’s offices, some of whom said they had not been paid recently. At the Vineyard Haven office, there had been signs of fewer referrals in recent months, a health official said.
Treatments at the office ranged from the use of nonaddictive drugs to acupuncture. Some patients were treated with Vivitrol, billed as a nonaddictive drug that blocks opiate receptors in the brain, so that heroin and oxycontin users would not experience the effects of those drugs. The office also performed drug screens, which could be done elsewhere on the Island but some patients felt more comfortable at VHA, said Dr. Charles Silberstein, who has a private general psychiatric practice based at the hospital.
Dr. Silberstein, the former director of the inpatient alcohol treatment program at New York’s Bellevue Hospital, said he had referred patients to VHA and said that it “filled an important niche on the Island” that complemented other service providers.
“It really is too bad because it was a resource for Island people who needed [outpatient detoxification treatment],” said Tom Bennett, associate executive director and senior clinical advisor at Martha’s Vineyard Community Services.