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Prominent Doctor Put on 5-Year Probation

TIMES MEDICAL WRITER

Dr. Wilbert C. Jordan, a member of the Los Angeles County Commission on AIDS and a prominent infectious-disease specialist at Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center, has been placed on probation for five years by the Medical Board of California.

The action follows Jordan’s guilty plea in 1987 to a federal misdemeanor charge of fraudulent Medicare billing, for which the Compton physician was fined $10,000, ordered to perform 100 hours of community service, placed on probation, and barred from the Medicare program for five years. Jordan also faces at least an additional $150,000 in federal civil fines, his attorney said.

The medical board order became effective May 1 but was not made public until last week. Jordan has appealed his exclusion from Medicare and said he would petition the medical board to reconsider if he wins his appeal.

“Everybody feels sorry that this happened,” said Robert McKim Bell, the deputy attorney general who represented the medical board. “Obviously, Dr. Jordan has had better days in his practice. His curriculum vita indicates that he is a highly skilled physician and many letters of recommendation accompany his file.”

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Said Jordan: “This has been a nightmare for me. If I had known all this would have happened, I would have never pled guilty.”

Jordan’s attorney, Gerald W. Connor of Century City, maintained that the various disciplinary actions were excessive given the nature of his client’s transgressions. He said Jordan has a “substantial” record of community service, which includes founding the AIDS clinic at King, providing “substantial free care,” and carrying a large caseload of AIDS patients at King and in his private practice.

“Life is not always fair,” said Connor, who did not represent Jordan at the time of his initial guilty plea. Calling the guilty plea “a big mistake,” Connor said that once Jordan “admitted guilt, everything else flowed from that. It was incontestable.”

The various disciplinary actions center on about $14,000 Jordan billed Medicare, the federal insurance program for the elderly and disabled, in 1986, according to Connor.

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Jordan billed for hospital care when he had not physically visited patients but had only called by telephone, Connor said. He also billed patients for office visits, when in fact the care actually was provided in their homes.

Connor said the “erroneous” billings resulted from “specific misunderstandings of Medicare’s billing requirements” and did not reflect poor quality of care.

In November, 1987, Jordan pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to three specific instances of misbilling involving one patient.

“There was no question that there were billing errors; we made mistakes,” Jordan said. He said he was told by federal officials at the time that if he “signed a piece of paper” and acknowledged the improper billings, “Medicare funds that were being held up would be released and there would be no other problems.”

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As is routinely done, the results of the court case and related federal actions were sent to the state medical board, which grants the license to practice medicine in California. The criminal conviction subjected Jordan’s medical license to state disciplinary action.

Under a settlement reached with the medical board in February, Jordan agreed to perform 100 hours of community medical service, take a course in medical ethics, and submit quarterly compliance reports, among other conditions. If Jordan violates this probation, his medical license could be revoked.

The conditions were “specified by the medical board,” said Bell of the attorney general’s office. "(Jordan) accepted them without alteration.”

While maintaining that Jordan deserved “no additional penalty,” Connor said he advised his client to agree to the settlement because “it was our best estimate that we would not persuade the medical board, after a hearing, to deviate from their standard sentencing guidelines.”

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Jordan has been a member of the county AIDS commission since 1988. He said he has treated more than 1,500 patients infected with the human immunodeficiency virus, the cause of AIDS. As an educator, he has helped to focus attention on specific problems caused by AIDS in minority communities.


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