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Getting Bamboozled as a Physician

I would like to think that I don’t get fooled easily. At least, that’s what I’ve believed about myself over the past couple of decades. But looking back, I’m probably as gullible as the next person.

Physicians make for great targets. We are busy and our knowledge and expertise lies fills a very narrow band. We deal with sick humans, so we often lead with an emotional connection rather than a transactional one.

This bamboozlement ordeal has been a year in the making, which is why I haven’t shared much about it. But after getting a lawyer involved along with a few delightful word exchanges, it’s settled and soon it will be resolved.

How it Started

Back in 2017 I was regularly looking through LinkedIn and Indeed. I came across a behavioral health artificial intelligence project and decided to apply. They were looking for a lead physician who would do some telemedicine work as well as some behind-the-scenes work.

I interviewed with their Chief Medical Officer and it went very well. They were looking for a physician who could help with the clinical aspect of things but also serve as a medical director.

The company was definitely legitimate and I did my due diligence on them. A few months went by and they decided to hire me. There was very little clinical (telemedicine) work at first but plenty of admin.

The Medical Director Position

This company had started in NY and they were moving to California and wanted to expand to WA and OR, as well.

They offered me a Medical Director position if I was able to help them open a P.C. (professional corporation) in CA. I took this on since everything seemed legitimate to me. The company was closing new contracts and doing well overall.

They were hiring more psychologists and not as many physicians so the telemedicine work dropped off some more. But they were still doing well as a company and wanted to expand into WA, next.

Again, they asked for my help. With the help of their lawyers I opened up another corporation in WA with myself as the Medical Director. Still, everything seemed like on the up and up. Their CMO kept promising that soon there will be more clinical work and more work for me on the Health IT side.

Reimbursement

I was paid on an hourly basis – $125/hour. I would be paid for the time I put in and I was in charge of tracking my hours.

The admin stuff took up a handful of hours a week, but it was mostly dealing with that corporation stuff. I wasn’t really managing clinical things.

And the telemedicine stuff was now nearly non-existent. So after I opened the corporations under my name, there was nothing else to do. I couldn’t put in any more hours and I wasn’t getting paid anymore; we’re talking crickets for nearly 3 months.

Pinging the CMO

Every few months I’d contact the CMO who hired me and ask what’s going on. Can I get more hours? How can I get involved more? What happened to the telemedicine work?

We chatted on the phone a few times and he constantly had one excuse after another. Either the company was dealing with something new or he was “drinking from the fire hydrant”, as he kept saying.

A year went by and I was just this “corporation holder” and not really involved in the business. I went to contact the CMO again and found out that he had left the company.

How This Scam Works

So let me explain how this scam works. It’s perfectly legal and the companies are often legitimate. In fact, this particular company is doing quite well in their space. As soon as I stepped down, they advertised for the same exact role online, and they will likely ensnare another poor sucker physician.

The company doesn’t want a physician on their payroll, that’s too expensive. But they need physicians who can open Professional Corporations in various states.

So they bring you on, offer you decent hours in the beginning, and once you help them establish the corporations, they’re done with you. Most doctors won’t bother to follow up or ask for the dissolution of the P.C. If they do, they are promised that more work is right around the corner.

Instead of paying a physician $150k-250k/year, they pay them $5,000-$10,000 over the first couple of months and then keep them on the hook for 2-3 years. Imagine the cost savings.

Dissolving a Corporation

If you find yourself in such a company, don’t just walk away, dissolve the corporations you created, no matter how much pushback you get.

These are professional corporations and the process of dissolving them isn’t hard. I recommend hiring a lawyer who can do this for you quite easily, for very little money. But you can also do this on your own.

In such a scham, the corporations will likely be 100% under your name, so you can dissolve it anytime you like. Let the company know that you’ll be doing so, give them a few weeks/months notice, to be fair. And make sure that you ask whether there is any debt or liens that you need to be aware of.

There is only 1 document that you need to fill out and sign. You submit it to your state’s treasury and you’ll get a confirmation a few weeks later that the corporation has been dissolved.

If You Get Pushback

In practice, of course, it’s not always that smooth. You’ll contact the CMO and he’s no longer working there. You don’t have other contacts so you go fishing online for the CEO or CFO or whomever you can find.

Your emails go unanswered, your phone calls aren’t returned. You also may not have access to all of the documents you initially signed when you started. So you don’t know what to do next.

A letter from a lawyer often does the trick. If you don’t want to hire a lawyer, contact a lawyer buddy. It worked well in my case. I went on a barrage and served their CEO, the business entity, and anyone else I could find.

We worded the letter rather convincingly and gave them a deadline. It’s unfortunate to have to deal with people in this way but you’re dealing with criminals, not conscientious human beings.

Red Flags for a Physician Job:

  1. Title offer; they offer you a title without a lot of upfront work
  2. Work solicitation; a telemedicine company reaches out to you with a vague job description (I get a lot of those)
  3. Vague work contract; doesn’t specify approximate hours or reimbursement rate
  4. Supervisory role; if there is little clinical work you have to do and no due diligence in the admin work
  5. Absent boss; if you have no direct supervisor and nobody to reach out to or check in with
  6. No established processes; if there are no established methodologies and you’re asked to wear many hats

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