VALATIE — A Columbia County anesthesiologist pleaded not guilty to federal charges Tuesday that she received kickbacks as part of a $7 million Medicare fraud scheme in which she allegedly claimed to have cared for patients she never met.
Dr. Anna Steiner, 63, of Valatie, entered a plea of not guilty in federal court Tuesday to conspiracy to commit health care fraud, under the U.S. Code. She was released on $300,000 bond.
“She is a great doctor,” her attorney, James Bell, of Dallas, Texas, said Friday. “She is innocent. She looks forward to her day in court.”
Steiner, also known as Hanna Wasielewska, allegedly claimed to provide medical services electronically, or using telemedicine, to Medicare, Medicare Part D plans and private insurance beneficiaries.
Medicare is a federal health care program that provides benefits to persons 65 years of age and older.
“As alleged, Steiner claimed to provide telemedicine services to patients, but in reality, her telecare was a fiction and the claims submitted to Medicare unnecessary and fraudulent,” U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue said in a statement. “This office and our law enforcement partners will continue vigorously investigating and prosecuting health care professionals who seek personal enrichment by stealing from a taxpayer-funded program.”
The alleged scheme took place over a three-year-period, from February 2015 to May 2018, according to the indictment. Steiner was the referring provider for more than $7 million in claims to Medicare on behalf of more than 3,000 beneficiaries, many of them for prescription knee braces and topical creams. Medicare paid more than $3 million on those claims, according to court documents.
As part of the investigation, FBI agents interviewed multiple beneficiaries who were not allegedly evaluated or examined by Steiner, although she allegedly named them in claims to insurance providers.
A beneficiary from Charlton, Massachusetts, who was not named, told FBI agents that he never needed a knee brace and had never been treated for a knee injury and didn’t recognize Steiner’s name. Steiner made $1,500 in claims for that beneficiary.
Another beneficiary from Milford, Massachusetts, interviewed by agents in 2017 said she does not and has never worn any type of knee brace and she has never received any knee braces in the mail. She did not receive care by Steiner in September 2016, despite $3,000 in claims filed on her behalf, according to an affidavit signed by FBI special agent Kyle Barton.
Most recently, an alleged patient from Staten Island told agents Feb. 21, 2019 that he had no need for a knee brace because he could not walk, but $827 was claimed to an insurance provider for a knee brace, Barton wrote in his affidavit.
“Fraud against both public and private health care plans is not a victimless crime — the cost of doing business is ultimately transferred to members and taxpayers alike,” FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. said in the statement. “More importantly, prescribing medication and medical equipment to patients for the sole purpose of turning a profit is not only unethical, it’s dangerous business. Today’s indictment is a victory for the FBI and our partners, the public at large, and those in the medical community who operate within the confines of the law.”
To reach reporter Amanda Purcell, call 518-828-1616 ext. 2500, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or tweet to @amandajpurcell.