Dr. Winn's supporters want me to forgive his insurance-fraud schemes because, well, he is a genius and may someday save the life of someone I love ["Brain Damage," Jan. 15]. The truth is, Winn's arrogance and greed got him caught. Winn made sure patients in the Washington area will not benefit from his professional skill. But not to worry. The "Old Boy Network" will make sure that Winn shows up at a first-rate university to teach what he knows.
Perhaps Dr. Winn and former corporate raiders from Enron, Arthur Andersen, etc., can team teach students how to screw the system.
I was glad to see that last week's cover story dealt with the case of Dr. Winn ["Brain Damage," Jan. 15]. This case had not been getting much coverage in the media, and it deserves to get more.
I am an alumnus of the University of Washington and would like to be proud of my alma mater and see it succeed. However, when I get calls and letters from the UW, whining about its present funding crisis and asking me to donate money, I reply by telling them that if they can afford to give over $950,000 to Dr. Winn, they surely don't need any money from me.
Richard D. Fuhr
MORE DIGGING, PLEASE
I read with great interest the article on Dr. H. Richard Winn and the attendant investigation ["Brain Damage," Jan. 15]. I have been disappointed with the lack of investigative reporting on this matter. Because of a guilty plea and the absence of a trial or public investigation, the public does not know what, if anything, happened. Let me pose some questions that to my knowledge have neither been addressed nor answered:
(1) Why, after the University of Pennsylvania was fined $30 million in civil fines for Medicare problems in 1995, did not the UW make sure they were in compliance with Medicare regulations? (2) Did the UW not have a compliance officer in place, and were UW Physicians staff not well trained? (3) Did the UW do their own investigation, and if so, what are the results? (4) Did the U.S. attorney's office place pressure on the UW to "give up" department heads in return for not imposing harsher measures on the university? (5) It was reported that the UW intervened to push for a plea bargain with Winn hours before he was going to be charged with fraud. Why would the UW do this at such a high price? (6) It would appear that Winn was going to fight the fraud charge. But if he believed himself to be innocent of fraud (it has been reported that he passed lie detector tests with respect to this charge), where did the obstruction of justice charge/plea come from? (Was this a "charge of convenience" that was part of the deal so the U.S. attorney's office could have their felony conviction and the UW would not have to have a trial? The issue of the trial comes up again and again, but no one asks why the UW was so concerned to avoid a trial.)
I should note that a family member worked for Dr. Winn. But the above questions are easily generated from the existing press coverage. Let's face facts: Both the UW and the U.S. attorney's office wield a lot of power. It is easier to focus on an individual than to ask hard questions about what is going on in these institutions/offices. Given that the UW is a public institution, it is amazing that so many questions aren't being asked, much less answered. Courtrooms are not necessarily the best place to find the truth, but the public is not even going to be given that opportunity. It is perhaps too much to ask an individual, in this case Dr. Winn (and the other doctors under investigation at the UW), to give up the practice of medicine to engage in a legal battle that would drag on for years and quickly deplete any resources.
In the absence of a trial, we have the Fourth Estate. There is a great deal of work left to be done!
Associate Dean, College of Arts and Sciences,
PARROT FOR THE PROSECUTION
In "Brain Damage" [Jan. 15], Rick Anderson erroneously implies that Dr. Winn is fraudulent. It's an easy stereotype. But obstruction is not fraud. In a nasty, nightmarish investigation, Winn made mistakes borne of fear and frustration (not quite as Anderson depicts). But there was no fraud.
He's the one to vilify. Forget that Winn: lacked a greed motive, serving the poor as well as any surgeon in the area; passed a polygraph test, as well as the UW's investigation, indicating no fraud; built the best neurosurgery program in the nation; helped build up Harborview to be a top trauma center; saved thousands of lives and trained others to do likewise.
Also, forget about: the screwed-up UW Physicians billing system and lack of training in compliance until 2000; Medicare's complex and confusing billing regulations; the fact that dozens of medical schools settled similar billing disputes with civil remedies; the excess of overzealous prosecutors bent on a "big name" trophy.
There's been a lack of good investigative journalists on this case. No one has explored the defense side. They, including Anderson, are but parrots of the prosecution.
What my family saw, day after day, month after month, was a doctor of extreme dedication, compassion, and commitment to excellence in patient care. The local institutions—including the press—can reinvent him if they wish. But we in the patient community will not forget what drives Dr. Winn. We know what he's about.
Rick Anderson replies: As I reported, Dr. Winn pleaded guilty to obstruction only, not fraud (for which he was investigated). He also had to pay back $500,000 for fees he "incorrectly" billed. Make of that what you will.
SHAME ON NIGHTSTAND
I didn't enter the Nightstand contest, but I have to say I'm appalled by the way Christopher Frizzelle went about choosing a winner and running the contest ["Fist Fite II: The Knockout," Jan. 15].
First, he decided on a winner who (1) didn't enter in the correct manner, and (2) is a friend! Impartiality? Forget about it! Second, what's with accepting entries from people who can't be bothered to submit them on time? Do you run a paper for idiots who can't understand the written word and follow a few basic instructions?
When you write the rules to a contest, you ought to follow the rules. To do otherwise is unethical (and might even be illegal! You may want to consult the attorney general of your state).
All I can say about your so-called "contest" is ppffftttt! You ought to be ashamed!
APPELO BOWLS ALONE
For all his ranting about the "irresponsibility" of Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine ["The Marxist Brothers," Jan 15], Tim Appelo is the one who comes across as immature. He credits the success of Columbine to Moore's "emotion mongering" by "staging scenes" and "fudging facts." This is a serious claim against a film that addresses violence in the U.S. and its perpetuation abroad by U.S. forces. At the Forbes Web site cited by the author, the falsification charges include: The Columbine shooters may not have attended their bowling class before their shooting rampage; the "missiles" at Lockheed were actually satellite-launching rockets; and the background check at the gun-gifting bank may have been longer than the scene implied.
These "falsifications" seem trivial compared with the messages woven throughout the film addressing the history of U.S. aggressive foreign policy, the plight of the working poor, institutional racism, and the rampant glorification of violence in the U.S. Moore's focus on the systems that lead to violence is dismissed as blubbery lefty propaganda.
Appelo's shot at Moore is not only off the mark, he misses the point entirely.
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