Corporate influence in the contracting and practice of medicine

This article is about ER Dr. Ming Lin. He is calling attention to the influence of large corporations such as Envision, TeamHealth in the contracting and management practice of medicine (ERs, etc.) and the detrimental effects it has on physicians, healthcare workers, and patients. He paid the price for calling attention by losing his job. The Civil Liberties Union wants him to settle. Instead, Dr. Ming Ling has taken his case to other attorneys.

Fired COVID Whistleblower Will Take His Case to Trial With New Lawyers, MedPage Today, Kristina Fiore, July 17, 2023

Ming Lin, MD, the emergency physician was fired early in the COVID pandemic for airing alleged safety concerns. He has hired new lawyers to take his case to trial.

After parting ways with lawyers working for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) because he didn’t want to settle his case as they recommended. Instead, Lin selected the San Francisco boutique firm  Millstein Fellner LLP to represent him when he goes to trial in February 2024.

Dr. Lin says he has “lost a lot of sleep thinking about” taking on the risk of a trial. Ultimately, he wants to try to make medicine better than when he found it. Particularly he wants to do such because his daughter has expressed interest in going to medical school. Dr. Lin told MedPage Today.

“I think that’s one of the main things, when I thought about this case. Can’t just sit back or walk away with a settlement. I would really regret it, if I didn’t at least try to change healthcare. If I can make even a small difference, I would feel much more satisfied.”

Millstein Fellner is the same firm that the American Academy of Emergency Medicine (AAEM) is working with in its lawsuit against private equity-backed physician staffing firm Envision for allegedly violating California’s ban on the corporate practice of medicine. David Millstein, JD, partner at Millstein Fellner, told MedPage Today . . .

AB: Contract management groups (CMGs) such as Envision and TeamHealth, which are owned by PE firms KKR and Blackstone, respectively.”

“This case perfectly illustrates the danger to the public of allowing corporations to control and influence physicians. The inherent conflict between medical professionals and the commercial interests of lay entities is recognized in law, enshrined in the Corporate Practice of Medicine bar. Physicians must be allowed to act in their patients’ best interests, not to assist corporations in their duty to earn profits.”

Millstein added.

“Dr. Lin’s advocacy for medical standards and maintenance of this suit is nothing less than a courageous exercise of his ethical duties to care for patients.

Lin provided more details to MedPage Today about the early days of COVID-19 and his outspokenness led him to losing his job of 17 years. He worked at PeaceHealth in Bellingham, Washington, as an employee of physician staffing firm TeamHealth.

Though he enjoyed his work, he said he had developed an itch to work on Native American reservations: “You get to an age in medicine where you say, I need to explore beyond my comfort level,” he said. “[It] was my midlife crisis in medicine, I guess.”

His first short-term assignment was at a reservation in South Dakota that began just as COVID was starting to hit the U.S. He did between shifts in Washington state.

When Lin arrived in South Dakota, he expected few resources to combat the virus, but instead he was “surprised that we were doing temperature checks. We were doing triage outside, treating patients in their cars. People were geared up thinking there was COVID out there.”

That was more than what was happening back home in Washington state, he said, even though a nursing home not far from Bellingham was an early epicenter of COVID cases and deaths.

Lin was also calling other doctors in the northwest and California, asking them about how their facilities were trying to protect workers and patients from potential COVID spread. He found.

“They confirmed what we were doing in South Dakota, restricting or limiting visitation, doing outside triaging, temperature checks, everything they can to protect themselves and their patients.

He brought up his concerns with his superiors, but he said the concerns were not addressed, so he took to social media. Not long thereafter, Lin said the hospital asked TeamHealth to remove him from the schedule.

After he was terminated, Lin said he had “lots of lawyers contacting me,” and he ultimately went with the ACLU-sanctioned team. But after 3 years, those attorneys “decided abruptly that we should settle, even though we have a court date set in February.”

“They said, ‘If you don’t settle, we will have to consider walking away from the case,'” Lin said.

“So they withdrew from the case.”

He considered many alternatives, including representing himself at trial, before landing on hiring Millstein Fellner.

He knows the path ahead will not be an easy one: “When you’re facing major corporations, especially one that’s backed by a private equity company, it could be financially and mentally challenging.”

He’s now footing the bills for legal services, but in the future, AAEM and Take Medicine Back may help raise funds for him if necessary.

Still, he’s adamant about taking on the problem of the profit motive in healthcare, which he blames for those early days of not doing enough to protect staff and patients against COVID. He said . . .

“We need to take the greed out of medicine. There’s no reason why CEOs should be making $10 to $20 million.

You see your patients get charged an incredible amount of money for a simple suture, and you have no control over the billing. Physicians should know what our patients are being charged for what we’re doing. If I knew I was charging somebody $2,000 for a suture, I wouldn’t do it. I would find another way.”

As long as administrators are incentivized by profit, he said, healthcare won’t change: “People with business degrees do not see the complications of diabetes. Doctors and nurses see amputations, kidney failure, retinopathy, strokes, heart attacks. Someone with a business degree, all they see is a number.”

Lin is currently working for Tribal Health, a company helping to place doctors on Native American reservations. Particularly on those where tribes have gone through a process of self-determination and the tribes themselves manage the hospitals, instead of the Indian Health Service.

John Shufeldt, MD, JD, MBA, founder and CEO of Tribal Health, told MedPage Today.

“He’s a guy who you instantly like because he’s humble and affable and well-meaning and has high integrity. “We send him to places that need his level of skill and diplomacy and expertise, and he crushes it every time.”

Shufeldt adding.

“I think how he was treated really lacked foresight. This is about being heard and setting the record straight.”

Little Good can Come from Private Equity in the Healthcare Industry, Angry Bear, run75441