United States Attorney Anne M. Tompkins
Western District of North Carolina
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – A Charlotte neurologist has agreed to pay $2 million plus interest to the United States to settle civil fraud allegations, announced Anne M. Tompkins, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. Hemanth P. Rao, MD, is the owner of and principal neurologist at The Neurological Institute in Charlotte, formerly known as Neurological Consultants of the Carolinas.
U.S. Attorney Tompkins is joined in making today’s announcement by Derrick Jackson, Special Agent in Charge, Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG), Office of Investigations, Atlanta Region.
The settlement was reached following a multi-year investigation by HHS-OIG into Dr. Rao’s practices associated with the administration of intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) therapy. Government investigators found that from October 13, 2003 to May 26, 2006, Dr. Rao failed to meet the Medicare supervision regulations associated with IVIG therapy. IVIG is the delivery of healthy immunoglobulins directly into the bloodstream of patients suffering from immunodeficiency and autoimmune disorders. IVIG therapy involves the injection of a thick, viscous fluid into the veins of patients throughout a period of several hours. The Medicare program requires that the patient’s physician directly supervise the administration of this treatment in order to ensure the safety of the patient. Investigators found that Dr. Rao sought and obtained reimbursement for his IVIG therapy services from Medicare even though he was not present in the building with his patients when they were receiving IVIG treatment, as required by Medicare.
The Settlement Agreement also requires that Dr. Rao pay an additional $500,000 to Medicare upon the sale of his real estate holdings. Furthermore, Dr. Rao entered into a five-year Integrity Agreement with HHS-OIG to promote compliance with the statutes, regulations, program requirements, and written directives of Medicare, Medicaid, and all other federal health care programs.
In making today’s announcement U.S. Attorney Tompkins stated, “Dr. Rao’s actions not only compromised the integrity of the Medicare program, but exposed his patients to potential danger. I commend HHS-OIG for their thorough investigation and for their continued efforts to protect Medicare, an important health care program seniors rely upon to cover their health care needs.”
“Dr. Rao allowed his staff to practice a potentially hazardous procedure on Medicare patients, without his supervision, then blatantly charge taxpayers,” said Derrick Jackson of the HHS-OIG region including North Carolina. “Citizens of this State can continue to look toward U.S. Attorney Tompkins to vigorously pursue providers who shortcut Medicare regulations in exchange for profit.”
The investigation was conducted by HHS-OIG in Greensboro. Assistant United States Attorney Don Caldwell handled the case for the United States Attorney’s Office.
The investigation and charges are the work of the Western District’s joint Health Care Fraud Task Force. The Task Force is multi-agency team of experienced federal and state investigators, working in conjunction with criminal and civil Assistant United States Attorneys, dedicated to identifying and prosecuting those who defraud the health care system, and reducing the potential for health care fraud in the future. The Task Force focuses on the coordination of cases, information sharing, identification of trends in health care fraud throughout the region, staffing of all whistleblower complaints, and the creation of investigative teams so that individual agencies may focus their unique areas of expertise on investigations. The Task Force builds upon existing partnerships between the agencies and its work reflects a heightened effort to reduce fraud and recover taxpayer dollars.
If you suspect Medicare or Medicaid fraud please report it by phone at 1-800-447- 8477 (1-800-HHS-TIPS), or E-Mail at HHSTips@oig.hhs.gov. To report Medicaid fraud in North Carolina, call the North Carolina Medicaid Investigations Division at 919-881-2320.