Anchorage doctor's license suspended

Posted: Friday, September 06, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The Alaska State Medical Board has suspended the license of an Anchorage doctor after a state review said ''irresponsible and erratic'' practices led to the death of two patients.

The review was part of a petition issued by the state Division of Occupational Licensing asking to immediately stop Dr. Jay D. Van Houten from practicing medicine. The petition also cited a recent federal indictment that charged Van Houten and his wife, a registered nurse, with 83 counts of health care fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit fraud.

On Wednesday, Van Houten, 45, and his wife, Ida, 44, pleaded not guilty to all counts in U.S. District Court. According to the July indictment, the couple defrauded private insurance companies by billing for services not rendered, double billing and billing acupuncture services as physical therapy.

A judge released the two on their own recognizance, noting neither had a criminal record.

Van Houten is a doctor of osteopathy, a physician who approaches medicine holistically but also uses modern medical practices. He operated a private family practice in Anchorage and has been licensed to practice in Alaska since 1992.

The summary suspension of a physician's license is allowed under state statute if a doctor's work would present a clear and immediate danger to public health and safety. The medical board suspended Van Houten's license Aug. 28. The restriction will hold until further review.

''There's nothing to support that he's an immediate danger to the public,'' said Paul Stockler, Van Houten's attorney. ''They've known about these complaints since 1999, 2000. So why in September of 2002 is he suddenly a danger to the public?''

The state reviewed the cases of 13 patients. In addition to the two deaths, state officials said Van Houten mistreated or improperly evaluated others.

In 1999, a patient identified as D.A. died from an overdose of medication prescribed by Van Houten. The report said Van Houten prescribed pain and anxiety medications to D.A. for anxiety, depression and hip pain even after the patient's condition worsened, showing the medicine was ineffective. Van Houten's records showed that D.A. abused medication and that the doctor didn't reevaluate the treatment.

''Van Houten's substandard care ... was a major factor in the death of D.A.,'' the report said.

Medication prescribed by Van Houten also led to the overdose death of a another patient, identified as R.D., in February 2000. Van Houten prescribed drugs like OxyContin and Percocet to R.D. even though he knew R.D. had a history of addiction.

Van Houten also failed over seven years to examine patients properly, to re-evaluate patients during additional office visits, to change prescriptions when patients were clearly abusing medication and to monitor patients when injecting pain medications in his office, the petition alleges.

''Van Houten not only lacked professional knowledge of pharmaceutical basics, but also demonstrated a dangerous disregard for patient safety,'' the report said.

Another patient told the Division of Occupational Licensing that Van Houten billed the patient's private insurance company and the state's Workman's Compensation Fund for the same treatment.

A four-year investigation by the state Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the FBI led to the couple's indictment in July. According to the indictment, in 1997 and 1998, Van Houten and his wife regularly defrauded companies including Blue Cross Blue Shield of Washington and Alaska, Alaska Electrical Health and Welfare Fund and Alaska Teamsters Health and Welfare Fund.

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