Here is the story of a doctor who lost his moral compass.
Dr. Michael A. Rosin was a well-respected community member, family man, and dermatologist in Sarasota, Florida. He specialized in Mohs micrographic surgery, which is a technique that excises skin cancer via removal of multiple thin layers of skin.
The only problem was that the doctor preyed on the elderly. His cruel and long-standing scam involved falsely diagnosing skin cancer, surgically removing skin from his patients, and billing Medicare for the procedures.
Violating the trust of his elderly patients, Rosin told them they had skin cancer. He convinced these patients to endure unnecessary surgeries that scarred, and sometimes disfigured, his victims, all in order to bilk Medicare out of millions of dollars.
Since 1986, the federal government has recovered more than $21 billion under the False Claims Act, which offers compensation for information regarding anyone suspected of swindling the government—$1 billion went to whistleblowers in settlements ranging from 15% to 30% of the recovery.
In order to reap the greatest revenue, Rosin would falsely diagnose most of his patients with the category of skin cancer that would garner the greatest Medicare reimbursement. The more layers of tissues he removed, the more he received from Medicare. Medicare reimbursed Rosin $2000 for every layer he removed, and he always removed 4 layers of tissue during a surgery.
His employees were informed that there was a daily surgery quota. His office manager was told that because Rosin had 7 children, he needed to average $10,000 per day. In just 3 years, Rosin made more than $3.7 million by falsely billing Medicare.
In some cases, the deceitful doctor diagnosed cancer without even looking at tissue samples on biopsy slides. One patient had approximately 30 operations on his face, his ears, and his eye. “He trusted Rosin,” the patient’s wife lamented, “you have to believe in your doctor, or you wouldn’t be going.” Another patient said that he began to question Rosin after the doctor had performed 15 to 20 procedures on him.
When employees questioned the fact that 100% of the biopsies reviewed in the office were diagnosed as cancer, he shrugged off their inquiries by explaining that the results were all positive because he only performed biopsies on areas that he thought were malignant. In addition, he said that because the majority of his patients had a history of skin cancer, it was to be expected that the cancers would recur.
Rosin’s patients also included couples. Rosin performed numerous surgeries on one particular husband and wife; their daughter said each has a disfiguring scar on their nose, where Rosin cut off the tips. Investigators said 13 of his patients underwent the surgery at least 20 times each, and one patient underwent 122 procedures over 20 years.
Some employees, still suspicious of Dr. Rosin, began testing him. They made a biopsy slide with a Styrofoam sample and another with a piece of chewed bubble gum on it. Dr. Rosin diagnosed each one as cancer.
Several of Rosin’ patients also became suspicious when they were diagnosed with skin cancer multiple times. One patient confided in the office manager and asked to get a second opinion of several of her diagnoses. An examination of the patient’s biopsy slides by an outside dermatologist showed that not only did the slides not reveal cancer, but some were so badly prepared that they couldn’t be identified as containing skin. In 2004, the patient and the office manager filed a whistleblower lawsuit against Dr. Rosin for unnecessarily cutting dozens of elderly patients and fraudulently billing Medicare.
A few days later, Rosin was arrested at Tampa International Airport while boarding an airplane carrying a loaded gun. He told federal officials that he needed the gun for protection due to the large sums of money he often carried. Federal agents raided his office and removed boxes of patient records. The FBI had medical experts check his biopsies. At times, Rosin had made diagnoses based on biopsy slides “that contained no identifiable human tissue.” The investigation further revealed that almost half of the 4000 slides seized from Dr. Rosin’s office were found to be unreadable.
In 2006, a Tampa jury found Rosin guilty on 70 counts of health care fraud and making false statements in health care matters. He was ordered to pay $7.2 million in fines and restitution and was sentenced to 22 years in prison.