by Steven Ertelt
November 22, 2007
Frankfort, KY (LifeNews.com) — A Kentucky abortion practitioner is denying charges from the state government that he wrongly billed the state for abortions he did at his private abortion center in Lexington. Hamid Hussain Sheikh has been released on bail after being charged with defrauding the state’s Medicaid system.
Sheikh was indicted on four counts of billing Medicaid for abortions that he erroneously reported as ultrasounds in the billing records. He could face 20 years in prison if convicted on all counts.
He was initially jailed on Tuesday after being charged but eventually was released after posting a $2,500 bond.
Sheikh, 62, said he billed the state for the ultrasounds he did that were required to determine the gestational age of the unborn child prior to the abortions. He said Medicaid normally covers the ultrasounds and that he charges the women $400 if they go on to have an abortion.
He also claimed the charges were motivated by pro-life advocates and alleged that Kentucky Bureau of Investigation agent Keith Howard, who talked with him before the charges were handed down, was pro-life.
“To serve 35 years with these anti-abortion people is not an easy thing,” he told the Herald Leader newspaper. “They will do as much as possible to hurt me, but I am right and I will defend myself.”
He claims Medicaid officials told him he could charge for ultrasounds but not for the abortions.
Yet, Dona Wells, who heads the other two abortion centers in the state, told the Herald Leader that it is illegal to charge the state for the ultrasound procedures. She runs the EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville and the EMW Women’s Clinic in Lexington.
Medicaid rules, under the federal Hyde amendment, only allow states to pay for abortions in the rare cases of rape, incest or to save the mother’s life.
Kentucky Right to Life president Frank Schwendeman said he was delighted that Sheikh had been charged with violating the law and hopes it would lead to his abortion center closing.
“Many of our supporters have spent countless hours praying in front of Sheikh’s clinic to end the abortions there,” he said. “Perhaps our prayers have been answered and Sheikh will no longer be in the business of killing unborn babies.”
Under the indictment, a Franklin County grand jury said the abortion practitioner had engaged in the billing scheme since 2004. Each of the instances of false billing defrauded Medicaid by $300 or more.
According to Deputy Attorney General Pierce Whites, the abortion practitioner was trying to get around federal law.
"Medicaid has a series of regulations and protections in place so it does not pay for any abortion procedures except when the mother’s life is in danger or if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest," Whites told AP.
The state only pays for fewer than 10 abortions per year under federal rules that only allow the very limited abortion funding.
In addition to the billing fraud he is accused of perpetrating, Sheikh allegedly double billed for the abortions by accepting payments from customers and then billing the state as well.
State officials were tipped off to the scheme when they saw he was prescribing drugs commonly given to women following abortions and they were listed in the billing paperwork.
After they charged him with Medicaid fraud, investigators search his offices in Lexington and found the abortion facility as having "deplorable sanitary conditions." Officials will forward their findings to the Board of Medical Licensure for potential actions.
“The investigation continues,” Attorney General Greg Stumbo said in a statement LifeNews.com received. “Additional charges are possible in view of the deplorable sanitary conditions found in Sheikh’s office.”
An arraignment in Franklin Circuit Court is scheduled for November 30.