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Neal Wade Barker, M.D., a prominent bariatric surgeon in Dallas, is the seventh defendant to admit his role in an alleged $200 million scheme of health insurance fraud involving the former Forest Park Medical Center. Barker was one of 21 defendants indicted in late 2016 for what prosecutors described as a massive bribery and kickback scheme to steer business to Forest Park’s luxury hospitals at insurers’ expense. He is the seventh defendant to enter a plea of guilty. The remaining fourteen defendants await trial, currently scheduled for early 2019.

According to the indictment, Forest Park executives paid surgeons, primary care doctors, lawyers and others to refer patients to their high-end hospitals. The hospitals were designed as out-of-network facilities, enabling Forest Park to set its own prices instead of agreeing to payment rates negotiated with insurers.

While patients who treat in out-of-network facilities typically pay a higher portion of a procedure’s cost, Forest Park did not attempt to collect money from patients for those higher costs. Instead, it allegedly wrote off those payments as bad debt and made up for them by collecting exorbitant reimbursement rates from insurers. “Thousands of patients chose to have the exact same procedure performed by the exact same doctor at a facility where, absent the scheme, the costs likely would have been financially prohibitive,” the indictment said.

Federal officials have said that Barker faces five to seven years in prison. A sentencing date has not been set.

Until his indictment, Barker apparently was doing very well. Property tax records show that his home in Highland Park has an appraised value of $12,487,540.

-  Copyright 2018, David L. SwansonStone Loughlin & Swanson, LLP.