Dr. Khaled Jabboury: Incredible Story of a Proven Cancer Doctor Getting Steamrolled by the Insurance Giants
It's a Thursday afternoon and Dr. Khaled Jabboury greets a patient in the waiting room of his office at the West Houston Medical Center. The woman, though it's not immediately noticeable, is facing the toughest challenge of her life.
Dr. Khaled Jabboury nearly lost his longtime practice and went to the slammer.
As Dr. Jabboury has proven, she has come to the right place. For 35 years, the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center-educated doctor has studied and treated patients with breast cancer. Twenty-five years ago, in a remarkable accomplishment, he helped a patient overcome stage IV breast cancer. This past January, the woman, alive and well in Brazil, rang the doc to wish him a happy birthday.
"I've seen leaps and bounds in this field," says Dr. Jabboury, a tall and kind man who grew up in Beirut, Lebanon. "We haven't even reached the max possible."
In 2007, Dr. Jabboury, a long and loud critic of the billing practices of medical insurance companies, became embroiled in a dispute with one insurance king over the billing of Herceptin, a "miracle drug" that Jabboury started using in the early 2000s. The drug, which doesn't have the side effects of chemotherapy medicine, was the subject of the made-for-TV film Living Proof starring Harry Connick Jr.
"Instead of billing Herceptin as a single-dose drug, he billed it as a multi-dose drug," says Joel Androphy, Dr. Jabboury's attorney. "He made an honest mistake."
After some time, Jabboury settled the disagreement. Or so he thought.
The next thing he knew, Humana, United and Blue Cross Blue Shield -- responding to a complaint that had been filed with the Texas Department of Insurance -- had nailed the doctor with charges of insurance fraud. (Jabboury and Androphy, due to a settlement agreement, declined to name the insurance company who originally complained. However, according to legal documents obtained by Hair Balls, that company was Aetna.)
"Nobody said anything to him for years and years. All of a sudden, insurance companies started saying, 'Let's see your medical records,'" says Androphy, who adds, "United, Blue Cross Blue Shield and Humana did nothing to contact us at all ever prior to the indictment."
Dr. Philip Salem, director of the Cancer Research Program at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital, is a world-renowned oncologist who has served on the health-care advisory committee for George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. He's also Dr. Jabboury's brother-in-law and brought Jabboury to M.D. Anderson as a fellow and later as a faculty member.
"I'm not exaggerating. I can't imagine somebody out there that's more moral and ethical than Dr. Jabboury," says Dr. Salem from his lavish facility in the Texas Medical Center. "They ganged up on him. I still don't understand these things....it could've been a personal vendetta."