Oliver Herndon

Oliver Herndon charged in hospice investigation

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Published: 03 August 2017

Posted by: Richard T. Breen

Oliver Herndon was sentenced again for sending patients to the hospice to rip off Medicare with fake billings even when they were not terminally ill. The 43 year old doctor is already serving over 11 years in federal prison for illegally prescribing painkillers. He was sentenced to 33 months on the new charges by U.S. District Judge Arthur Schwab. The sentence will be served alongside the earlier one. He will also have to pay $312,000 to the government in restitution.
The former medical director for Horizons Hospice pleaded guilty in November and waived indictment. Mary Ann Stewart was charged in February with lying to a federal grand jury and fraud in connection with the case. She was the former chief operating officer at Horizons.
Patients who were not terminally ill were placed in care and then fake insurance claims for submitted for the care. This had been going on from 2008 to 2012, said prosecutors. He kept patients longer than the six month period so that he could keep billing them. Herndon was earlier the most prominent pill mill doctor in the region before he was charged in the hospice investigation, according to the DEA. He pleaded guilty to prescribing about 14,000 oxymorphone and oxycodone pills without sound medical reason in 2012, but the true number of pills he prescribed was much higher according to them. He was arrested in March 2012. This was in July 2015.
In 2012, Barbara Heronsky had been seeing Herndon every month for two years. In January that year, she saw that he had changed. The pain management specialist had been seeing her for back and neck pain as well as a thyroid problem. Heronsky said that he was a good doctor. When she went to see him in January, she saw that his waiting room was overflowing with patients. She went to his health center at Pleasant Hills, and said that she couldn’t believe that so many people were there at the same time that she was there. The 56 year old is from Brownsville, Fayette County. She was not the only one who saw such changes. Many pharmacists simply refused to refill prescriptions that were written out by Herndon the previous summer. That was when the sheer number of prescriptions exploded.
The 40 year old Herndon pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court on Monday to drug trafficking and defrauding insurers. Investigators called him the biggest source of illegally obtained oxymorphone and oxycodone in Western Pennsylvania. His March arrest apparently cut supplies so badly that oxycodone’s street value went up to about $40 for a pill. That’s double the amount it’s usually sold for.
Herndon did not comment on Friday, at his large Peters home. His attorney, Roger Cox, said that that there were two sides to every story. He said that they intended to handle the matter in the courts and not in the media.
Herndon did his undergraduate at the University at California, San Diego. In 1996, he graduated from Stanford University School of Medicine. His residency was completed at the University of California, Los Angeles. He and his wife Linda had moved to Western Pennsylvania by 1999. He began practicing medicine there. His colleagues, patients and employees said that they considered him a good doctor for years, and thought he had a friendly bedside manner too. They all said that something had changed the year before. One of his former employees commented on this change and told investigators that Herndon could be best described as shy and reclusive earlier, but that he had become abrasive and quick-tempered in recent years. This statement is part of a federal affidavit that the investigators filed.
He started giving out prescriptions to a bunch of younger patients. They all appeared to be able-bodied. Many of them traveled over a 100 miles to meet with him, according to the affidavit. His patient load had really taken off from about 200 people to over a 1000 by May 2011. He only spent 2 -3 minutes with each patient. He would write them prescriptions for powerful opiates really quickly. He rarely medically checked them, the employee reported to the investigators.
If patients didn’t have insurance coverage, they paid $200 in cash when they first visited and $100 for subsequent follow-ups. Sometimes, Herndon saw close to 150 patients a day. He didn’t spend much time with patients who were insured. But he billed insurers for full visits all the same, said investigators. The employee also said that Herndon had called the system a cash cow. Staff collected around $60,000 in cash from patient in a span of about 6 days one time, said the employee.
Herndon also wrote letters to pharmacists and sent them via his patients, if they refused to refill orders. This was unusual to say the least.

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