Cardiac Monitoring Company to Pay $6.4 Million for Alleged Overbilling of Government Health Care Programs
BioTelemetry Inc., a heart monitoring company headquartered in Malvern, Pennsylvania, has agreed to pay $6.4 million to resolve allegations made under the False Claims Act (FCA) that its subsidiary, CardioNet, overbilled Medicare and other federal health programs for Mobile Cardiac Outpatient Telemetry (MCOT) services when those services were not reasonable or medically necessary, the Justice Department announced today.
“Billing for a higher-level service that is not necessary to treat a patient’s condition to receive higher reimbursement from federal health care programs will not be tolerated,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “Such conduct wastes critical federal health care program funds and drives up the costs of health care for all of us.”
“Today’s settlement is another example of how we will act to stop abusive billing practices and hold companies accountable for conduct that raises everyone’s healthcare costs,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes for the Western District of Washington. “This settlement should send a message to all providers: do not misuse federal billing systems to improperly gouge the healthcare system upon which so many Americans rely.”
An MCOT monitor provides real-time, outpatient cardiac monitoring. MCOT monitors are worn by patients for a period of time during which the device continuously records the activities of the patient’s heart, including any irregular rhythms or other cardiac event, and transmits data to CardioNet’s diagnostic center using cell phone technology. Traditional, less expensive event monitors only download patient data periodically over a landline.
The government alleges that CardioNet was aware that MCOT services were not eligible for Medicare reimbursement when provided to patients who had experienced only mild or moderate heart palpitations, since less expensive monitors could effectively collect data about those patients’ conditions. Nonetheless, CardioNet allegedly submitted claims to Medicare for those patients containing the billing code for the more expensive MCOT services along with an inaccurate diagnostic code that misrepresented the true condition of the patients and their need for MCOT services.
“Sticking taxpayers with a hefty bill for unneeded medical care will never be tolerated,” said Special Agent in Charge Ivan Negroni of the U.S. Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), Regional Office including Washington. “Working in close coordination with our law enforcement partners we will tirelessly pursue these suspected violators.”
“Federal employees deserve health care providers, including remote monitoring companies, that meet the highest standards of ethical and professional behavior,” said Inspector General Patrick E. McFarland of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. “Today's settlement reminds all providers that they must observe those standards, and reflects the commitment of federal law enforcement organizations to pursue improper and illegal billings that increase the cost of medical care.”
This settlement illustrates the government’s emphasis on combating health care 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 efforts to reduce and prevent Medicare and Medicaid financial 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.
This investigation was jointly handled by the Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington and HHS-OIG.
The claims resolved by this agreement are allegations only and there has been no determination of liability.