The founder of a nationwide chain of diabetes clinics, which inewsource investigated for months, pleaded guilty Friday in federal court to conspiring to bribe a state lawmaker in Alabama.
Why this matters
The nation has a limited supply of healthcare dollars to spend on drugs and services, which is why the government and health plans require scientific evidence of patient benefit. This is especially important for the 30.3 million people in the U.S. with diabetes, whose medical costs in 2012 totaled $245 billion.
Sacramento lawyer G. Ford Gilbert used the clinics, including one in San Diego, to offer insulin infusion treatments that he claimed could reverse diabetes complications. Experts inewsource interviewed called the procedure a fraud and a scam. Medicare and some private insurance companies also refused to cover the treatments.
Gilbert was indicted in April on charges stemming from a $2,000 payment he made in 2016 to then-Alabama House Majority Leader Micky Ray Hammon, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Montgomery. In exchange for the money, Hammon tried to win support for legislation that would have forced health insurer BlueCross BlueShield to pay for Trina Health treatments.
The insurance company had refused to pay for the insulin infusions at Trina’s three Alabama clinics.
“Mr. Gilbert thought that it would take only a small payment to turn the Alabama House of Representatives into a tool for solving his own business problems,” U.S. Attorney Louis V. Franklin Sr. said Friday.
Watch inewsource’s Trina Health investigation on the PBS NewsHour
With his guilty plea on one conspiracy count, Gilbert faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
When a federal grand jury indicted Gilbert last year in the public corruption case, he faced charges of bribery, racketeering, and healthcare and wire fraud. He originally pleaded not guilty to the charges.
According to the Montgomery Advertiser, the indictment followed a three-year investigation into Hammon that also implicated several other Alabama lawmakers and the former chairman of the state’s Republican Party.
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