U.S. Renal Care, headquartered in Plano, Texas, has agreed to pay $7.3 million to resolve allegations that Dialysis Corporation of America (DCA) violated the False Claims Act by submitting false claims to the Medicare program for more Epogen than was actually administered to dialysis patients at DCA facilities, the Justice Department announced today. U.S. Renal Care, which acquired DCA in June 2010, owns and operates more than 100 freestanding outpatient dialysis facilities throughout the United States.
Epogen is an intravenous medication that is used to treat anemia, a common condition afflicting patients with end-stage renal disease. Epogen vials contain a small amount of medication in excess of the labeled amount, known as “overfill,” to compensate for medication that may remain in the vial after extraction and in the syringe upon administration. The United States contends that from January 2004 through May 2011, DCA billed for 10-11% overfill whenever it administered Epogen. However, because of the types of syringes DCA used, the United States alleges that DCA was not able to withdraw and administer 10-11% overfill every time it administered Epogen to patients, and thus submitted false claims to Medicare that overstated the amount of Epogen that it was actually providing.
“Today’s settlement shows that the Justice Department will aggressively pursue those health care providers who cut corners at the expense of the American taxpayers, such as by billing for items and services that were not provided,” said Stuart F. Delery, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “We will continue to protect scarce Medicare dollars.”
“Medical care providers who submit false claims for services and products that were not actually delivered threaten the financial viability of the Medicare Trust Fund,” said Rod J. Rosenstein, U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland.
“Health providers billing for phantom services cheat taxpayers, cheat programs straining to pay for vitally needed care, and cheat patients who pay inflated copayments,” said Nick DiGiulio, Special Agent in Charge, Office of Inspector General, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for the region including Maryland. “We will continue to work with the Department of Justice to ensure health professionals get reimbursed only for services they actually provide”
This resolution is part of the government’s emphasis on combating health care fraud and another step for the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) initiative, which was announced by Attorney General Eric Holder and Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services in May 2009. The partnership between the two departments has focused efforts to reduce and prevent Medicare and Medicaid financial fraud through enhanced cooperation. One of the most powerful tools in that effort is the False Claims Act, which the Justice Department has used to recover $10.2 billion since January 2009 in cases involving fraud against federal health care programs. The Justice Department’s total recoveries in False Claims Act cases since January 2009 are over $14.2 billion.
The allegations settled today arose from a lawsuit filed by Laura Davis against DCA under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act. The Act allows private citizens with knowledge of fraud to bring civil actions on behalf of the United States and share in any recovery. Ms. Davis will receive $1,314,000 as part of today’s settlement.
This case was handled by the Civil Division of the Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland with assistance from the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services. The claims settled by this agreement are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability. The whistleblower suit is captioned United States ex rel. Laura Davis v. Dialysis Corporation of America, No. 1:08-cv-2829 (D. Md.).