A visit to a Heart Check America … and a sales pitch
Heart Check America offices in Tinley Park have closed. Many clients now believe they were part of a scam involving a large number of people across the country. (Nathan Weber/Pro Publica)
The procedure would be "noninvasive," he promised. No needles. "Just lie on a table and hold your breath." The scans could identify heart disease and might just save our lives, he added.
Three weeks later, at a clinic in a stucco Las Vegas office park, a company salesman named Tom led us through a PowerPoint presentation. He gave example after example of athletes and celebrities — baseball player Darryl Kile, newsman Tim Russert — who dropped dead of heart attacks.
"You never know when it could happen. … Boom, you're dead!" he exclaimed.
But Heart Check America's Electron Beam Tomography machines could have spotted the harmful buildup of calcium in their arteries, indicating they were at risk, Tom said.
After 45 minutes, Tom pulled out a price sheet and urged us to go beyond the free scans and upgrade to a 10-year contract for annual imaging services, including heart, lung and bone density. If we signed up immediately, the contract — usually $7,995 — could be ours for just $2,995 plus $199 in annual dues. Financing was available on the spot.
After I called the Nevada State Health Division to ask if Heart Check America was allowed to give me a heart scan without a doctor's prescription, the agency inspected the company's Las Vegas facility. Based on their findings, regulators ordered the clinic to stop conducting scans without doctors' orders and to take steps to protect employees from radiation exposure.
The center subsequently closed. David Haddad, manager of the Tinley Park-based company, said it was shut down because it was losing money, not for safety reasons. He said he was not aware of the findings by Nevada officials.