Adventist Health System Sunbelt Healthcare Corporation (Adventist) has agreed to pay $5,412,502 to resolve claims that it violated the False Claims Act by providing radiation oncology services to Medicare and TRICARE beneficiaries that were not directly supervised by radiation oncologists or similarly qualified persons, the Department of Justice announced today. Adventist is a non-profit healthcare organization operating a large network of hospitals in the South and the Midwest, and doing business in Florida as Florida Hospital.
“Today’s settlement demonstrates our continued vigilance to ensure that federal health care beneficiaries receive the highest quality of patient care,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “It is critical that health care providers adequately supervise the services they provide to their patients.”
Radiation oncology services provided to patients served by Medicare and TRICARE, the Department of Defense’s health care program, must be directly supervised by a radiation oncologist or similarly qualified personnel. The United States alleged that, from Jan. 1, 2010, through Dec. 31, 2013, Adventist violated this supervision requirement for radiation oncology services provided to federal health care program beneficiaries at several Florida locations, including in Altamonte Springs, Daytona Beach, Deland, Kissimmee, Orange City, Orlando, Palm Coast and Winter Park. These services included radiation simulation, dosimetry, radiation treatment delivery and devices, and intensity-modulated radiation therapy.
“Medicare and TRICARE patients deserve high quality health care,” said U.S. Attorney A. Lee Bentley III of the Middle District of Florida. “We will not tolerate providers recklessly cutting corners, particularly when furnishing such critical medical services as radiation oncology.”
The settlement partially resolves allegations made in a qui tam lawsuit under the False Claims Act filed in Tampa, Florida, by Dr. Michael Montejo, a radiation oncologist and former employee of Florida Oncology Network P.A., a radiation oncology group. The act permits private individuals to sue on behalf of the government for false claims and to share in any recovery. Dr. Montejo will receive $1,082,500 as his share of the recovery.
“Providing proper supervision of radiation oncology services is an important requirement in federal health care programs such as Medicare,” said Special Agent in Charge Derrick L. Jackson of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General. “Our agency will continue to hold health care providers accountable for meeting the requirements in these taxpayer-funded programs.”
This settlement illustrates the government’s emphasis on combating healthcare fraud and marks another achievement for the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) initiative, which was announced in May 2009 by the Attorney General and the Secretary of Health and Human Services. The partnership between the two departments has focused on efforts to reduce and prevent Medicare and Medicaid fraud through enhanced cooperation. One of the most powerful tools in this effort is the False Claims Act. Since January 2009, the Justice Department has recovered a total of more than $23.8 billion through False Claims Act cases, with more than $15.2 billion of that amount recovered in cases involving fraud against federal health care programs.
The settlement was the result of a coordinated investigation between the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida, the Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General.
The case is captioned United States ex rel. Montejo v. Adventist Health System Sunbelt Healthcare Corp., Case No. 8:13-CV-206-T-23AEP (M.D. Fla.). The claims resolved by the settlement are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.