Readers Respond to Accusations of Medical Overbilling

“Kinda doubt the final chapter has been written about Dr. Brett…”

Nearly every WW cover story is met with smart, interesting commentary from readers. Some of it we print. And then there are weeks when we can’t. Last week, for example, WW considered the Oregon Medical Board case against Dr. Darrell Brett, a Portland neurosurgeon accused over overprescribing opioids and overbilling for surgeries and tests (“The $4,700 Pee Test,” Jan. 17). Across social media platforms, readers volunteered their own tales of interactions with Brett. We won’t be running most of those; we have lawyers. But here’s what else our readers had to say:

Doug Larsen, via wweek.com: “Overbilling for drug urinalysis testing was a major issue in the early 2000s, when more than a few doctors were getting kickbacks from urinalysis labs that were charging massively overinflated prices. In this case, it was even worse because the doctor owned the lab; a direct conflict of interest he was legally obligated to disclose but apparently didn’t.

“The actual cost to a lab to perform a comprehensive drug urinalysis is about $40 to $50 (that’s all in…labor, lab equipment, follow-up administrative work, and other business overhead). Many labs were charging anywhere from $800 to many thousands for such tests, with the ordering doctor getting a 20% to 50% kickback.

“Our medical system is ripe with abuses like this because the chances of getting away with overbilling are admittedly high. When it comes to overcharging, only military contractors are more proficient at the practice than the medical establishment.”

projecttvko, via Reddit: “What movie was that, Alec Baldwin was a doctor in court and the lawyer said something like, but aren’t you playing God? And Alec responds, ‘I AM GOD.’”

FORGOTTENMAN, via wweek.com: “I had Dr. Brett perform three back surgeries, have had several friends/acquaintances also go under his knife, all are quite happy.

“His particular craft is up pretty high on the medical food chain, so no wonder there’s some sketchy $$ issues he’s involved in. Also, if you’ve never had a spine issue, you can’t imagine the pain that’s so often part and parcel of that malady, hence the heavy reliance on opioids.

“His bedside manner can be seen as brash or ‘impersonal.’ Folks typically are not going to him to have a couple drinks and BS about the day’s happenings. They do see him since he’s quite competent and can resolve the issue at hand as he’s done on perhaps thousands of patients, so errors can and will be made.

“To some measure, I’ve known Dr. Brett since the ‘80s like several other docs. Many would make great next-door neighbors as some wouldn’t. Kinda doubt the final chapter has been written about Dr. Brett…”

1ToeIn, via Reddit: “Sounds like his regular Bible study isn’t sinking in much.”

LOOK AT BOTH SIDES NOW

While we agree with the signers of the recent ad (“Cease Fire Now,” Jan. 10) that Israel has caused—and continues to cause—a humanitarian disaster in Gaza, and agree with their plea to the U.S. government to respond more assertively to Israel’s actions, there was one glaring omission: The authors of the ad did not mention nor condemn the horrible Hamas terrorist attack on Oct. 7 that triggered the immediate crisis. The military wing of Hamas knew what it would be unleashing but made a conscious and deliberate decision to murder and kidnap Israeli civilians, provoking a disproportionate Israeli response that would lead to the destruction of Gaza and the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent Palestinian victims. We believe it is possible to have empathy for the tragedy that Israelis endured and continue to endure, while simultaneously acknowledging that Israel’s military response has caused untold damage to Palestinians living in Gaza.

Joel Glick, Southwest Portland

Elinor Gollay, Northwest Portland

LETTERS to the editor must include the author’s street address and phone number for verification. Letters must be 250 or fewer words. Submit to: P.O. Box 10770, Portland, OR 97296 Email: mzusman@wweek.com

Willamette Week’s reporting has concrete impacts that change laws, force action from civic leaders, and drive compromised politicians from public office. Support WW's journalism today.