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WASHINGTON – Radiotherapy Clinics of Georgia LLC, a radiation oncology practice, and its affiliates RCOG Cancer Centers LLC, Physician Oncology Services Management Company LLC, Frank A. Critz, M.D. and Physician Oncology Services L.P. (collectively, RCOG) agreed to pay $3.8 million to settle claims that they violated the False Claims Act, the Justice Department announced today. RCOG, which is located in Decatur, Ga., allegedly billed Medicare for medical treatment that they provided to prostate cancer patients in excess of those permitted by Medicare rules and for services that were not medically necessary.
The civil settlement resolves complaints filed by two whistleblowers, called relators, under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act by a former employee and a former doctor who both worked for RCOG. The government alleged that RCOG overbilled Medicare for port films (X-ray images of the treatment area) and for simulations (the process by which radiation treatment fields are defined, filmed and marked on the skin in preparation for personalized radiation therapy). Additionally, it was alleged that the practice overbilled Medicare for physics consults (production of complete special consultative reports for an individual patient) and for pre-plans ordered by Dr. Critz that were not medically necessary and/or never reviewed by the doctor.
“Protecting the integrity of the Medicare program, which over 47 million individuals rely on for their medical care, is one of the department’s highest priorities. Health care providers are put on notice that they must bill only for medically appropriate care” said Stuart F. Delery, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Division.
The complaints, which were filed separately by the two relators, were consolidated into the case captioned United States ex rel. R. Jeffrey Wertz and Rebecca S. Tarlton v. Radiotherapy Clinics of Georgia, LLC, et al., Civil Action No. 1:08-CV-2244, pending in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. The relators, R. Jeffrey Wertz and Rebecca S. Tarlton, M.D., will receive $646,000 as their share of the proceeds.
Sally Quillian Yates, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, said, “This settlement demonstrates our office's continued commitment to stop Medicare fraud. Unfortunately, otherwise legitimate businesses continue to take advantage of federal healthcare programs for their private profit. We will not ignore these violations.”
“The OIG would like to remind providers that if they know a claim to be false, it is their responsibility to bill the claim properly,” said Derrick L. Jackson, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) for the Atlanta region. “The OIG will continue to hold companies like RCOG responsible for improper claims.”
Brian D. Lamkin, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta Field Office, stated: “The FBI continues to dedicate many investigative resources to the protection of the federally funded Medicare program from individuals who would attempt to divert these much needed funds through fraud. The public is reminded that anyone with information regarding healthcare fraud, to include Medicare fraud, related activity should contact their nearest FBI field office.”
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 more than $6.7 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 $9 billion.
This case was investigated jointly by the Commercial Litigation Branch of the Justice Department’s Civil Division, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia, the FBI and HHS-OIG.
The claims settled by today’s agreement are allegations only; there has been no determination of liability.