LAS VEGAS - A new scandal is brewing over a coverup within the University of Nevada Reno Medical School.
As the I-Team first reported, a confidential audit of the UNR School of Medicine clinics which operated for years in southern Nevada uncovered widespread billing errors and serious lack of oversight. But there may be darker secrets that have yet to be uncovered.
One of Nevada's biggest law firms is going after UNR's medical school operating in southern Nevada, in part, because of allegations about billing errors and outright fraud.
There was also a separate investigation which has never been made public. In response, to I-Team stories, the firm Lewis and Roca is going to court to get it.
I-Team: George Knapp: "Is the audit public?"
Dr. Barbara Atkinson, UNLV Medical School Dean: "I don't know. I believe it is confidential."
Earlier this year, Atkinson said she could not comment about a confidential audit conducted in 2016. Since then, the I-Team obtained a copy of the audit. Auditors found blatant billing problems across the board, many or most of the doctors in the UNR operation committed critical billing errors 50 to 90 percent of the time including overbilling of Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance.
Internal emails show that Atkinson and others at UNLV pushed for the audit, in part, because they received reports of more serious fraudulent billing. They later urged UNR to disclose the results. A Sept. 2016 email from Atkinson to several university officials mentioned the most serious compliance issue centered on someone identified as "Dr. K'.
Atkinson wrote that this doctor would not be hired by UNLV and that his behavior should be reported to the medical board and federal government.
UNR medical school Dean Thom Schwenk responded, confirmed the seriousness of the allegations, then said another independent investigation was being conducted. He added that Atkinson didn't need to know any more than that.
Dr. K turns out to be Dr. Kayvan Khiabani, a hand surgeon who earned more than a million dollars from UNR in 2015. When some of his fellow doctors alleged that Khiabani was charging for procedures that were never performed and for equipment that was never used, the reports were ignored.
The whistle blowers were threatened. One day Khiabani learned he was being fired, he died in a collision with a bus. In March of this year, a jury awarded his family $19 million for a wrongful death caused by the bus company. But the jury never heard that Khiabani had been fired or that he was under investigation.
After the I-Team story aired, the law firm for the bus company filed a series of motions to reconsider the jury award. They want access to all of the UNR records, including the investigations that were never made public. Every motion filed so far was immediately sealed at the request of the other side. None of the parties is allowed to comment yet.
In addition to this legal action to force the release of UNR's records, federal authorities are also asking to see the audit.
The compliance officers whose job it was to make sure UNR doctors didn't overcharge for services still have their jobs. One of them is chief compliance officer for UNR medical school. The other was promoted and now oversees UNLV's School of Medicine.
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