Diagnostic Imaging Group To Pay $15.5 Million For Allegedly Submitting False Claims To Federal And State Health Care Programs
NEWARK, N.J. – Diagnostic Imaging Group (DIG) has agreed to pay a total of $15.5 million to resolve allegations that its diagnostic testing facilities falsely billed federal and state health care programs for tests that were not performed or not medically necessary and by paying kickbacks to physicians.
U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey Paul J. Fishman, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Division Stuart F. Delery, and U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Loretta E. Lynch announced the settlement today.
DIG has agreed to pay $13.65 million to the federal government and an additional total of $1.85 million to New York and New Jersey. DIG operates a chain of diagnostic testing facilities through its subsidiary, Doshi Diagnostic Imaging Services, which is headquartered in Hicksville, N.Y. DIG previously operated chains in New Jersey and Florida through subsidiaries Doshi Diagnostic Imaging Services of New Jersey and Signet Diagnostic Imaging Services.
“Health care providers who make decisions based on profit instead of medical need compromise patient safety and confidence,” U.S. Attorney Fishman said. “Unnecessary tests and the payment of kickbacks also siphon precious resources from our health care system. The settlement we’re announcing today is an appropriate response to these unacceptable practices.”
“When health care providers pay kickbacks and submit false claims to Medicare, they not only deplete the Medicare Trust Fund, they undermine the integrity of the health care system,” said Assistant Attorney General Stuart F. Delery. “The Justice Department will relentlessly pursue those who misuse federal health care funds for their own profit.”
The settlement announced today resolves allegations that DIG submitted claims to Medicare, as well as the New Jersey and New York Medicaid Programs, for 3D reconstructions of CT scans that were never performed or interpreted. Additionally, DIG allegedly bundled certain tests on its order forms so that physicians could not order other tests without ordering the additional bundled tests, which were not medically necessary. Today’s settlement also resolves allegations that DIG paid kickbacks to physicians for the referral of diagnostic tests. According to the government, the kickbacks were in the form of payments that DIG made to physicians ostensibly to supervise patients who underwent nuclear stress testing. These payments allegedly exceeded fair market value and were, in fact, intended to reward physicians for their referrals.
“Patients deserve testing decisions based solely on medical need, not doctors’ pocketbooks,” said U.S. Attorney Lynch. “We will continue to work with our federal and state law enforcement partners to investigate vigorously allegations of fraud on federal programs like Medicare and to pursue those who seek to fraudulently deplete the Medicare Trust Fund.”
“Paying physicians for their referrals and submitting false claims to increase Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements – as was alleged in this case – simply cannot be tolerated,” said Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Daniel R. Levinson. “Besides levying a hefty penalty, the settlement requires an independent organization to review Diagnostic Imaging Group’s claims for five years and to send reports to the government.”
The allegations resolved by today’s settlement were raised in three lawsuits filed 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 government and to share in any recovery. The three whistleblowers will receive the following amounts as part of today’s settlement: Mark Novick, M.D., $1.5 million; Rey Solano, $1.07 million; Richard Steinman, M.D., $209,250.
U.S. Attorney Fishman reorganized the health care fraud practice at the New Jersey U.S. Attorney’s Office shortly after taking office, including creating a stand-alone Health Care and Government Fraud Unit to handle both criminal and civil investigations and prosecutions of health care fraud offenses. Since 2010, the office has recovered more than $535 million in health care fraud and government fraud settlements, judgments, fines, restitution and forfeiture under the False Claims Act, the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act and other statutes.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles Graybow of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Health Care and Government Fraud Unit in Newark and Trial Attorneys Arthur Di Dio and William Olson of the Justice Department’s Civil Division in all aspects of the case, as well as Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Kaufman of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York with regard to the Steinman qui tam. New York was represented the New York Attorney General’s Medicaid Control Fraud Unit in New York City, and New Jersey was represented by the New Jersey Attorney General’s Government & Healthcare Fraud Section in Newark.
The settlement is the culmination of an investigation conducted jointly by special agents of the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General and special agents of the FBI in Newark under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Aaron T. Ford, with contributions from the Railroad Retirement Board.
The claims settled by this agreement are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability. The three cases are captioned United States ex rel. Mark Novick, M.D. v. Doshi Diagnostic Imaging Services P.C., Civil Action No. 09-4992 (D.N.J.), United States ex rel. Rey Solano v. Diagnostic Imaging Group et al., Civil Action No. 10-267 (D.N.J.) and United States ex rel. Richard Steinman, M.D. v. Diagnostic Imaging Group, et al., Civil Action No. 10-4161 (E.D.N.Y.).
Defense counsel for Doshi:
Mitchell Lazris Esq. and Ronald Wisor Esq., Washington
Counsel for Relators:
Novick qui tam – bundling, including 3D reconstruction: Marc S. Raspanti Esq. and Michael A. Morse Esq., Philadelphia
Solano qui tam – stress-testing: Eric H. Jaso Esq., New York, and David Bocian Esq., Radnor, Pa.
Steinman qui tam – 3D reconstruction: Timothy McCormack Esq., Washington