Brentwood, Tennessee-area surgical center management company Meridian Surgical Partners has agreed to pay a total of $5.12 million to settle allegations of healthcare fraud. Healthcare fraud continues to reign as the top-grossing area of recovery under the False Claims Act, and the Department of Health and Human Services – in concert with the Department of Justice – continues to work tirelessly to combat this form of intentional fraud. If you work in the healthcare industry or are otherwise aware of fraud involving Medicare or Medicaid patients, we encourage you to contact a whistleblower attorney right away.
Details of the Case Against Meridian
The facts of the False Claims Act lawsuit against Meridian Surgical Partners are not uncommon. The case began upon the observation by a former business office manager that Meridian would routinely offer and pay kickbacks to certain doctors in exchange for the doctor’s promise to secure patient referrals to one of Meridian’s numerous ambulatory surgical centers – primarily targeting patients receiving healthcare benefits through Medicare. The case also alleged an unlawful financial partnership between Meridian and the ambulatory surgical centers pertaining to Meridian’s purchase of a majority ownership of several centers for below fair market value. Doctors were similarly offered minority ownership stakes for less than market value.
The whistleblower commenced his lawsuit in May, 2011 while still employed by Meridian. The government declined to intervene – which is not uncommon – and the whistleblower courageously continued his lawsuit nonetheless. The settlement came on the eve of trial, which was scheduled to begin on September 23, 2014.
Despite its claims that all business relationships were within the confines of the law, and its contention that the whistleblower was subsequently terminated for “misappropriation of funds,” Meridian “chose to settle this action to avoid the financial costs and distractions that would have come with further legal proceedings.”
Responses to Settlement
The government opted not to intervene against Meridian, but maintains its firm stance against healthcare fraud. Likewise, plaintiff’s counsel remarked, “This settlement reaffirms that Relators who choose to pursue their claims after the Government has declined to intervene can achieve successful results….. [the relator] had the courage to take Meridian to task for violating the law, at great personal risk. We applaud his efforts and applaud the contribution of the United States Department of Justice in this matter.”
Benefits of Filing a False Claims Act Case
If you are aware of fraud, but apprehensive about speaking to a confidential whistleblower attorney, you are not alone. It is not uncommon to be distraught over the notion of “turning in” your employer and possibly exposing your workplace and co-workers to an investigation. However, healthcare fraud often involves medically unnecessary – and potentially health-threatening – surgical procedures, from which you could save countless future patients by coming forward. Healthcare fraud is a burgeoning business, and whistleblowers like you are needed to help put a stop to this wasteful and dangerous practice.
For more information about whistleblower lawsuits, please contact Berger Montague today.