A medical assistant at a cancer-care practice in Fort Myers, Florida collected $3.2 million when the practice settled a False Claims Act case for nearly $20 million.
Mariela Barnes worked for 21st Century Oncology LLC. She filed a whistleblower suit in March 2013 alleging the firm submitted Medicare and other government claims for medically unnecessary tests.
The DOJ said the tests were ordered by four Fort Myers-based urologists — Dr. David Spellberg, Dr. Meir Daller, Dr. Steven Paletsky, and Dr. Robert Scappa.
Under the whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act, private parties can bring qui tam lawsuits on behalf of the government and share in any recovery. The government has the option to take over qui tam suits, as it did in this case.
The DOJ alleged that 21st Century encouraged the doctors to order unnecessary tests by offering bonuses based in part on the number of tests referred to 21st Century’s laboratory.
The settlement resolved the civil liability of 21st Century only, the DOJ said.
The DOJ’s Benjamin Mizer said, “Providers who waste taxpayer dollars by billing for unnecessary services will face serious consequences.”
The case was United States, State of Florida, ex rel. Mariela Barnes v. Dr. David Spellberg, 21st Century Oncology and Naples Urology Associates, Civil Action No. 2:13-cv-228-FtM-38DNF (M.D. Fla.).
The claims resolved by the settlement were allegations only and there has been no determination of liability, the DOJ said.
Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.