Volunteer doctor was jailed in ’01 for fraud
A doctor who treats patients at Helemano Plantation was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison in 2001 for submitting false billings to Medicaid in his private practice.
Dr. Sze Ming Suen has been allowed to prescribe medication and practice medicine despite his federal conviction but has been barred from participating in Medicaid programs.
Suen and officials at Opportunities for the Retarded Inc., which runs Helemano, said he works as a volunteer and does not take part in any Medicaid program.
Suen, 71, now retired, had been treating Helemano clients for years in his private practice. He said he became a medical consultant at Helemano in 2003 and said he now visits twice a week and provides services for free at Helemano.
He called Helemano a well-run operation that provides "really good care" to its clients.
"I help them out," he said. "They like my service."
He said some clients are sent to other physicians, but some of them want him to double-check the diagnosis.
"Dr. Suen has been a doctor for us and the clients for many, many years. Whatever legal thing has been taken care of," said Ann Higa, chief operating officer for ORI. "He still maintains his medical license. He's a very good doctor."
"Since he retired, he's been coming out regularly, and it has been a great help to us."
Suen reached a $2.1 million settlement with the U.S. government in the case, one of the highest Medicaid or Medicare recoveries against an individual doctor in Hawaii. He was also subjected to three years of supervised release, which ended in July 2006.
Suen said some billings in his Medicaid case might have involved Helemano clients, but said the case did not question his medical judgment and his medical license was not revoked.
Suen was prosecuted for submitting false bills for illegally allowing a pharmacy technician to order and dispense medication from his Wahiawa office. During his court case, Suen contended the employee had been stealing from him and that he did not know about her dispensing practices, but he signed claim forms and received payments on the claims.
The Hawaii Disability Rights Center sent to the Attorney General's Medicaid Control Fraud unit documents listing Suen as a medical consultant at Helemano and news reports about the Medicaid fraud conviction.
Brook Hart, Suen's lawyer in the federal Medicaid case, said there is nothing inappropriate about Suen working as a volunteer without participating in Medicaid programs.
Hart agreed the federal case did not question Suen's medical skills, but dealt with his use of generic drugs in place of brand-named drugs. The lawyer said his former client "took responsibility for his mistake" and completed his sentence.