Pittsburgh Vein Center Rip Offs – 5 Scams You Need to Watch Out For

Pittsburgh Vein Center Rip Offs –  5 Scams You Need to Watch Out For

Some Pittsburgh Varicose Vein Center’s Hidden Agenda

Disturbing Truths about Some Varicose Vein Treatment Centers in Pittsburgh.

This article is intended to prevent you from being a victim of unnecessary varicose and spider vein treatments.

Fake Dictionary, Dictionary definition of the word Fraud.The dictionary defines scam as a dishonest scheme or a fraud.

Scam can also be used as a verb as in – swindle.

Did you get hurt when the 2008 mortgage fraud scam nearly decimated our economy in 2008?

We all felt the pain of that scam. The banking system was even regulated and controlled by the federal government giving us all a false sense of security.

One reason this vein racket works so well is that people of all ages can get varicose veins.

Even though the incidence increases, with age, they don’t just target the elderly.

As a matter of fact, it’s younger people with spider veins that are most often preyed upon by manipulative vein doctors and vein clinics.

One of the most common cons goes something like this.

The Groupon Spider Vein Con

scam written on a chalkboardThis con is the #1 ethical violation seen with med spa vein centers in Pittsburgh.

First, the unscrupulous vein center puts an ad in Groupon or Living Social.

The spider vein treatment cost is unbelievably low.

That’s the bait.

In boiler room terminology, it’s the sucker’s list.

In fact, after Groupon takes the lion’s share of the cost, these places are virtually providing a free service.

The vein center’s goal is to get you in to charge for the more lucrative and unnecessary saphenous ablation procedures.

Saphenous vein ablations reimburse thousands of dollars per vein.

Often these dishonest vein boiler room operations will find 4 to 6 or more saphenous veins (which are actually normal) and falsify the Doppler test so that reap this huge windfall.

This is all as a result of you simply responding to an innocent looking Groupon or Living Social coupon discount and taking the bait.

Cons usually work best if there is some degree of greed involved in the one being conned.

First, at the initial consultation for your spider veins, they tell you that you need an unnecessary Doppler ultrasound test.

As a result, you are informed that you have “Hidden Veins” you can’t see on the surface of the skin that are causing the spider veins.

They hammer away until you’re worn down.

They convince you that if you wait the condition will worsen.

They deliberately misrepresent the truth.

Don’t worry, they say, “Insurance will cover it”.

They’ll tell you that other vein centers “don’t know how to bill for it” even though it’s clear that every insurance company doesn’t cover spider veins.

Greed is present in medicine as the rest of the world.

Trust written under Pinocchio noseTrust is necessary when you are having medical procedures.

They rush you into taking action.

As with so many scams, sometimes they prey on loneliness. They always seem “very friendly.”

Surely it couldn’t happen to you. Thinking that makes you more vulnerable.

Therefore, be skeptical and aware that this type of practice exists and is thriving in our city.

Fraudulent Vein Center Modus Operandi (M.O.)

  • They are opportunistic and determined.
  • They are persistent and believable.
  • They depend on you being trusting and naive.
  • They use medical jargon to sound authoritative, confuse you and to let your guard down.

It can happen to anyone.

How Suspect Vein Centers Manipulate Vulnerable Patients

#1 Free Screenings

#2 Free Consults

No hidden fees on a chalkboard

We all want no hidden fees but some UPMC facilities have been criticized for this practice.

#3 Enticements (giveaways and raffles)

#4 Part-time untrained phlebologists

#5 False advertising

#6 Hidden and Expensive Facility Fee

Trusting and unsuspecting patients are the most vulnerable.

Medicine is changing rapidly from a traditional one-on-one interaction to a business oriented environment where profits are all important.

Insurance companies and hospitals have their eyes focused on the bottom line.

Beware of tempting advertisements that claim to be “painless” or “permanent”.

They push things on you with an air of authority.

It’s like throwing things against the wall to see what sticks.

Let’s try it.

Unnecessary Dopplers – stick.

Unnecessary procedures – stick.

Unnecessary and expensive facility fee – stick.

Unnecessarily ablating 4-6 normal saphenous veins on people with spider veins – stick.

Submitting spider veins for insurance coverage – stick.

Audits from Medicare and commercial insurance companies – whoops!

5 Lies About Cost That Pittsburgh Vein Centers Like to Tell

Lie #1 – “Insurance Covers It”

Red circle around Truth, with Lies text and pencil on textured paperThe truth is – Insurance never covers spider veins unless they have bled.

Asymptomatic varicose veins are also not covered by any insurance company.

Most people have insurance deductibles and co-insurance which are added costs that come out of your pocket.

Beware of these added costs when someone tells you that insurance covers it.

The truth is  also that insurance rarely covers all of your varicose vein care treatment costs.

Lie #2 – Free Consultations

The truth is – no other medical specialty gives consultations away for free.

Free consultations are a blatant hoax to get you in to see what they can get out of you.

Lie #3 – Free Screenings Are Preventative Medicine and Educational.

The truth is – screening for vein problems is not on any medical screening list.

Lie #4 – Doppler Ultrasound Testing is Necessary after Every Consultation.

The truth is – the test makes the vein center $250 after they charge the insurance company and are reimbursed for it.

Patients with spider veins rarely need a full Doppler ultrasound.

Lie #5 – Our Physicians Are All Board Certified

The truth is – their physicians are not board certified in vascular disease.

They are really board certified in something else like family medicine, emergency medicine, radiology or cardiology.

Reporting Fraudulent Vein Centers

hand cuffsIf you feel that you’ve been taken advantage of, you can report it under the False Claims Act which can impose fines and penalties on these vein facilities and franchises.

Whistleblowers can be rewarded significant amounts after providing evidence to the Justice department through a lawsuit.

Unfortunately, most people are reluctant to sign anything so the criminal behavior persists.

At the very least, reporting the problem to the local county and state medical societies can be done anonymously. This is most effective in cases involving Medicare and Medicaid.

Reporting is taken especially seriously when there are claims of unnecessary injections of varicose and spider veins, unnecessary testing has been done, or marketing of non-FDA approved equipment for the treatment of varicose veins has taken place.

Concerns about false advertising can be made by claims to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

A Great Story About Medical Ethics

doctor holding medical ethics signNot all vein centers and vein doctors are crooks.

Although this article points out the flaws of some in the medical field, there is still hope.

The following story was written by Pauline W. Chen MD and appeared in the New York Times on Jan. 29, 2009 about the hidden curriculum of medical school as it pertains to compassion and ethics.

One year during medical school, a couple of friends and I summoned up the courage to invite an admired physician-teacher out for lunch. She had acquired a movie star gloss in our eyes, possessing everything we dreamed of — brilliance, competence and the respect of colleagues — and we hoped that some of her charm might rub off.

We skipped out of our ethics lecture early to meet her, making it just in time.

“Don’t worry about missing that class,” our teacher said when we sheepishly relayed the reason for our breathless arrival. “You can’t learn ethics or compassion.

You either have it or you don’t.”


Be wary of free vein consults, free vein screenings or deeply discounted vein services (read: Groupon).

Someone always pays. Be sure it’s not you.

Doctors with no vascular training are practicing on patients with venous disease here in Pittsburgh and throughout the country.

Always get a second opinion.

Seriously. Read this important article about second opinions for vein services in Pittsburgh

Don’t be bullied into committing to anything on the day of your initial consultation.

All they ask is for you to just kindly give them your insurance information and they’ll take it from there. What could go wrong?

Always talk it over any proposed procedures with your primary care physician before you proceed with any vein treatments.

Don’t allow vein consultants to circumvent your primary care doctor through advertising or the internet.

You don’t give money to the excessively wordy Nigerian who emails you out of the blue to recover their inheritance – right?

Likewise, if you only have spider veins, don’t submit to questionable Doppler testing and overly aggressive procedures that will eliminate your saphenous veins which could be needed for coronary artery bypass later in life.

Vein center sting operations exist and are thriving here in Pittsburgh.

Question authority.

About The Author

Dr. John Happel

Dr. John Happel has been in practice as a surgeon since 1986 in the Pittsburgh region. He specializes in vascular surgery and has subspecialized in the treatment of varicose and spider veins since 1999. Dr. Happel is board certified in vascular surgery and recertified in vascular surgery in 2012. He was chosen in 1985 to fulfill the position for the vascular surgical fellowship at the world renowned Mayo Clinic.