The Arizona Supreme Court ruled unanimously Monday that the statutory protections of doctor-patient privilege do not cover investigations into Medicaid fraud.
The court rejected the claims of Chalice Zeitner, who appealed a fraud conviction on the basis that the court erred by allowing the introduction of medical records as well as the testimony of her physicians during her trial. In 2010 Zeitner received a state-funded abortion due to her assertion that she had recently undergone extensive radiation and chemotherapy for uterine cancer. A year later, doctors performing a cesarean for another pregnancy found no evidence to support her claim that she previously had uterine cancer.
The court affirmed the lower court’s decision on two grounds. First, the court found that Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System’s (AHCCCS) “broad authority … to investigate suspected fraud necessarily implies an exception to the [doctor-patient] privilege for internal AHCCCS investigations and proceedings.” Second, the disclosure requirements of doctor-patient privileges are “not absolute, and the legislature has imposed limitations when ‘the public good requires [the privilege to] give way to serve a greater good.'” The court proceeded to provide examples of the exception such as the disclosure of findings of infectious diseases or the disclosure or law enforcement wounds which may have resulted from illegal activity.
The court affirmed Zeitner’s conviction on all 11 counts of fraud and the resulting sentences.