Give the doctor a checkup before ordering a house call

In his June 2005 settlement with the agency, Rubin stipulated that although he did not admit that the accusations against him were true, he acknowledged that the board could make a strong case against him if the matter proceeded to a hearing.

Rubin was placed on probation for five years and was required to take courses on ethics and record-keeping. He is permitted to continue practicing in California and is not required to disclose his probationary status to patients.

After the settlement was reached in California, Rubin was forced to surrender a separate New York medical license, preventing him from practicing in the state. He also had his medical privileges terminated by Brotman Medical Center in Culver City, requiring Rubin to rely on other doctors in the event that a patient is hospitalized there.

Out of 125,000 physicians licensed by California, Rubin was one of only 92 placed on probation in the fiscal year that ended June 2007, according to Medical Board figures.

I asked Rubin how he could have been accused of filing false claims to insurance companies if he'd stopped dealing with insurers in 2000. He told me the state's investigators had their facts wrong.

Debbie Nelson, a spokeswoman for the Medical Board, said the board stood behind its findings in the accusation.

I also asked Rubin why he settled with the board and agreed to the terms of his probation if the accusations against him were false.

"A lot of doctors settle rather than fight," he replied. "Doctors have been bankrupted by lawyers. Doctors are at the mercy of any accusation the Medical Board makes."

As for his new gig as Dr. House Call, Rubin said he'd already received calls from other physicians asking for advice on setting up their own concierge practices. He described the healthcare system as "a slow-motion train wreck" and said that "the only doctors left will be the ones whose practices are one on one."

"I don't think healthcare is a right," Rubin said. "It's a service like any other service."

And like any other service, the old saw applies: Buyer beware.

To check the status of any licensed physician in California, go to the website and click on "Check Your Doctor."

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