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Public Aid Seeks Ouster of Prolific Prescription Writer

April 9, 1995

CHICAGO (AP) _ The Illinois Department of Public Aid is trying to bar additional Medicaid funds to a Chicago physician who was one of the state’s most prolific prescription writers.

The Public Aid Department says Dr. Russell Bissell failed to examine his patients, overprescribed drugs and prescribed medicine that could worsen patient ailments.

When he was practicing medicine, Bissell frequently saw Medicaid patient Walter Wilbon, who made a living by feigning or exaggerating illness to obtain prescription medication he later resold.

Bissell, who worked out of an office on the South Side, was one of 240 Illinois physicians who handled 40 percent of all Medicaid patient visits in 1993, according to published reports. A third of the doctors have either voluntarily left the program, faced discipline for practicing bad medicine or reduced their billings by at least 40 percent.

Bissell told the Chicago Tribune last week that he is now retired. He says the Illinois Department of Regulation, which licenses physicians, began an investigation of him in 1993 after published reports of Medicaid fraud. He says he has agreed to surrender his prescription-writing license. He still has his physician’s license.

The complaint by Public Aid against Bissell says an examination of patient records indicate he provided services to five patients that were ``potentially harmful and of grossly inferior quality.″

He is accused of failing to monitor levels of theophylline, a drug used to treat asthma; failing to perform physical examinations; not ordering lab procedures to determine causes of illness; and giving a diabetic prescriptions for drugs that actually can decrease a patient’s ability to control blood sugar.

The Public Aid complaint says Bissell rarely documented diagnoses and those he did were not supported by documented physical examinations or other objective findings, such as laboratory test results.

Bissell told the Tribune he would not contest the Public Aid complaint.

``I think the program stinks. The whole damn thing is ridiculous and is a fraud on the people,″ the newspaper quotes Bissell as saying. ``I don’t think it’s worth a damn to me to go back.″

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