U.S. Court in Florida Dismisses Whistleblower’s Complaint Against Nuclear Pharmacy

PS 4 Indest-2009-3By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On September 28, 2017, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida dismissed a relator’s (whistle blower’s) False Claims Act (FCA) complaint against a nuclear pharmacy in Tampa. The court found that the relator failed to plead fraud with the required amount of specificity that the law requires.  The case awas filed against GE Healthcare, Inc.’s nuclear pharmacy.

The Allegations.

GE Healthcare operates 31 nuclear pharmacies in the United States, where it produces radiopharmaceuticals through a process of compounding drugs.  The relator was a board-certified nuclear pharmacist who formerly worked at GE Healthcare, Inc.’s nuclear pharmacy in Tampa, Florida. The relator’s allegations included the manner in which GE compounded and labeled radiopharmaceuticals. More specifically, the whistle blower claimed that GE sold diluted and expired drugs. Additionally, the whistle blower alleged that GE falsely inflated the reimbursement rate for certain drugs by providing false sales data to Medicare.

GE argued that the realtor’s claims should be dismissed pursuant to the FCA’s public disclosure bar because the allegations overlapped with an action filed by a different relator, James Wagel, in 2006. To read about this FCA case, click here.

The Court’s Decision. 

The court found that Sunil Patel’s allegations were not “based on” or “substantially the same as” the allegations in the prior public disclosures. However, the court dismissed the realtor’s claims on another ground:  failing to plead the allegedly fraudulent claims with sufficient particularity. According to the court, the allegations that defendant “presented or caused to be presented” a false claim fell “well short of alleging ‘exact billing data.'”  In other words, the relator failed to plead one or more false claims by giving the specifics, such as date, amount, patient, billing code, amount paid by the government, etc.  The court found that the relator identified no “particular facts about the ‘who,’ ‘what,’ ‘where,’ ‘when,’ and ‘how’ of fraudulent submissions to the government.”

The case is United States ex rel. Patel v. GE Healthcare Inc., No. 8:14-cv-120-T-33TGW (M.D. Fla. Sept. 28, 2017).

Click here to read one of my prior blogs on a similar FCA case involving a pharmaceutical company.

Specifics of the False Claims Are Required for Any Qui Tam Whistle Blower’s Case.

This is one of the biggest short comings we see in potential clients who contact us with information about false claims being submitted by their employers or other healthcare providers.  They do not have the specifics of any single false claim.  Yet the law requires this or a whistle blower’s case can get dismissed by the court outright.  You can do an awful lot of work investigating, pleading and litigating a whistle blower’s case only to have the court dismiss it without its ever getting anywhere near a trial.  Even if a scheme or system is inherently fraudulent, you must be able to show one or more claims that were submitted were actually false claims.

We advise health care professionals who consult us with possible False Claims Act/whistle blowers cases, be sure you have the details, and preferably copies of the documents, that show a false bill was submitted to the government.  This can be a CMS Form 1500 or an explanation of benefits that the patient and the insurer or facility receives back.  Sometimes you can get these form the patient if you do not have access to these from the employer.  But without a false claim and, preferably, a number of false claims, you don’t really have a False Claims Act suit.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Qui Tam or Whistle Blower Cases.

Attorneys with The Health Law Firm also represent health care professionals and health facilities in qui tam or whistleblower cases both in defending such claims and in bringing such claims. We have developed relationships with recognized experts in health care accounting, health care financing, utilization review, medical review, filling, coding, and other services that assist us in such matters. We have represented doctors, nurses and others as relators in bringing qui tam or whistleblower cases, as well.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at http://www.TheHealthLawFirm.com

Sources:

Fraud and Compliance. “U.S. Court in Florida Dismisses Whistleblower Action Against Nuclear Pharmacy.” AHLA Weekly. (October 6, 2017). Web.

Mayo, Rebecca. “Evidence of likely submission not enough to prove FCA violation.” Wolters Kluwer Health Law Daily. (October 2, 2017). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law.  He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice.  Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area.  www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

KeyWords: Health care fraud defense attorney, legal representation for allegations of health care fraud, False Claims Act (FCA) attorney, FCA defense attorney, False Claims attorney, legal representation for FCA investigations, legal representation for FCA complaints, Whistleblower attorney, Whistleblower defense attorney, legal representation for Whistleblower investigations, legal representation for Whistleblower complaints, qui tam attorney, qui tam defense attorney, legal representation for qui tam cases, legal representation for qui tam investigations, FCA legal representation, relator attorney, relator defense attorney, health law defense attorney, The Health Law Firm, reviews of The Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.Copyright © 2017 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

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South Florida Hospital Agrees To Pay $12 Million To Settle FCA Claims

George IndestBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On December 7, 2016, a Miami-area hospital will pay the federal government about $12 million to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act (FCA) by submitting false claims to federal health care programs for medically unnecessary cardiac procedures, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) said.

The Allegations.

The allegations against South Miami Hospital stem from procedures allegedly performed by Dr. John R. Dylewski while he worked for the hospital. “Performing medically unnecessary heart procedures is shocking to the conscience,” Shimon R. Richmond, the U.S. Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of Inspector General’s (OIG) special agent in charge, said in a statement. “Conducting cardiac catheterizations purely for profit, not patient care, seriously breaches the ‘do no harm’ commitment physicians pledge.”

Two Whistle Blowers Add to the Mix.

Two whistle blowers, Dr. James A. Burks and Dr. James D. Davenport, brought the suit to light and stand to receive about $2.75 million of the settlement. Dr. Burks is a vascular surgeon who started working at South Miami Hospital in 2003 and Dr. Davenport is a cardiologist who was active in various peer review committees at the hospital between 2010 and 2014.

Both whistle blowers claimed to have personal knowledge of Dr. Dylewski and the hospital performing a number of unnecessary cardiac procedures for the sole purpose of increasing the amount of reimbursements paid to the hospital and its doctors by Medicare the DOJ said. According to the two whistleblowers, the alleged wrongdoing was known throughout the hospitals’ corporate hierarchy, including top executives, department officers, medical division chiefs and members of peer review committees. Additionally, both whistleblowers claim to have witnessed “repeated and continuing instances” of the improper medical and billing practices.

Dr. Dylewski, who no longer works at the hospital, was not a party to the settlement. Click here to read the press release on the suit from the DOJ.

To learn more about FCA suit, click here to read one of my prior blogs on a similar case.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Qui Tam or Whistleblower Cases.

Attorneys with The Health Law Firm represent physicians, nurses and other health professionals who desire to file a False Claims Act (whistle blower or qui tam) case. This case just shows that even physicians can and should bring such claims and be rewarded for their whistle blowing activities. However, the attorneys of The Health Law Firm also defend physicians, medical groups and health facilities who have been sued in False Claims Act (whistle blower or qui tam) cases or have had administrative or civil complaints filed against them to recover civil monetary penalties. We have developed relationships with recognized experts in health care accounting, health care financing, utilization review, medical review, filling, coding, and other services that assist us in such matters. We have represented doctors, nurses and others as relators in bringing qui tam or whistle blower cases, as well.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Kennedy, John. “Florida Hospital To Pay $12M To Settle FCA Claims.” Law360. (December 7, 2016). Web.

Lincoff, Nina. “BREAKING: South Miami Hospital to pay $12M to settle false claims allegations.” South Florida Business Journal. (December 7, 2016). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

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The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999, and is also a registered service mark.
Copyright © 2016 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved

DOJ Releases 2016 False Claims Act Recovery Statistics: Third Highest Annual Recovery Ever

5 Indest-2008-2By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On December 14, 2016, the U. S. Department of Justice (DOJ) released its annual False Claims Act (FCA) recovery statistics. It revealed that the DOJ obtained more than $4.7 billion in settlements and judgments from civil cases involving fraud and false claims against the government in fiscal year 2016. What this indicates to me is that, if all of these cases had been brought by individual relators, those relators could have shared in as much as $1.41 billion as their personal reward for the relator’s part of the recoveries. A whistle blower can receive up to 30 percent of the amount warded to the government, plus all attorney’s fees and costs, for bringing a successful False Claims Act case.

The Third Highest Annual Recovery.

Based on these statistics, 2016 took its place as the third highest annual recovery since the FCA was established in the 1800s. The fiscal year average jumps to nearly $4 billion since fiscal year 2009, and the total recovery during that period to $31.3 billion.

“Congress amended the False Claims Act 30 years ago to give the government a more effective tool against false and fraudulent claims against federal programs,” said Mizer. “An astonishing 60 percent of those recoveries were obtained in the last eight years. The beneficiaries of these efforts include veterans, the elderly, and low-income families who are insured by federal health care programs; families and students who are able to afford homes and go to college thanks to federally insured loans; and all of us who are protected by the government’s investment in national security and defense. In short, Americans across the country are healthier, enjoy a better quality of life, and are safer because of our continuing success in protecting taxpayer funds from misuse.”

Fraud in the Health Care Industry.

The DOJ recovered $19.3 billion in health care fraud claims from January 2009 to the end of fiscal year 2016. Additionally, 57 percent of the health care fraud dollars recovered in the 30 years since the 1986 amendments to FCA claims. Most of the false claims actions are filed under those whistle blower, or qui tam, provisions. Whistle blowers filed 702 qui tam suits in fiscal year 2016, and the DOJ recovered $2.9 billion in these and earlier filed suits in 2016. The government awarded the whistle blowers a total of $519 million during the same time period.

Click here to read the DOJ’s press release in full.

These DOJ fraud recoveries restore valuable assets to federally funded programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, and TRICARE, the health care program for service members and their families.

To read more on the importance of preventing health care fraud, click here to read one of my prior blogs.

If you find yourself at the center on an audit or investigation for health care fraud, don’t wait until it’s too late. Contact an experienced health law attorney. To find out how The Health Law Firm can help you, click here.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with FCA, Qui Tam or Whistle Blower Cases.

Attorneys with The Health Law Firm also represent health care professionals and health facilities in qui tam or whistle blower cases both in defending such claims and in bringing such claims. We have developed relationships with recognized experts in health care accounting, health care financing, utilization review, medical review, filling, coding, and other services that assist us in such matters. We have represented doctors, nurses and others as relators in bringing qui tam or whistle blower cases, as well.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.
Sources:

Richardson, Kalie. “DOJ Announces $4.7 billion in False Claims Act Collections – $2.5 billion in Health Care Alone.” AHLA Weekly. (December 15, 2016). Web.

Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP. “DOJ Releases its 2016 False Claims Act Recovery Statistics.” The National Law Review. (December 15, 2016). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

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“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2016 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.