After a very busy year-end in the world of whistleblower news, the first full week of the year was quiet by comparison. Nonetheless, there were a few settlements worth noting:
Monday, Jan. 7, 2013: On Monday, the United States Department of Justice announced that EMH Regional Medical Center, a non-profit hospital in Ohio, agreed to pay $3,863,857 and that North Ohio Heart Center Inc., a physician group, agreed to pay $541,870 to settle allegations that they were responsible for unnecessary cardiac procedures on Medicare patients in violation of the False Claims Act. More specifically, the government alleged that the defendants "performed angioplasty and stent placement procedures on patients who had heart disease but whose blood vessels were not sufficiently occluded to require the particular procedures at issue." Performing and billing for unnecessary medical procedures is, of course, a significant drain on the healthcare resources of this country, and appropriately gives rise to False Claims Act liability. Unnecessary angioplasty and stent procedures continue to be a focus of government enforcement actions and whistleblower reports. See here for more. The whistleblower in this case, Kenny Loughner, was the former manager of the hospitals catheterization lab. He will receive $660,859 of the government's recovery. The physicians denied wrongdoing in connection with the settlement.
Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2013: The New York Attorney General, Eric T. Schneiderman announced on Tuesday a $2.4 million settlement with Stericycle, Inc., one of the nation’s largest medical waste disposal companies, in connection with allegations that Stericycle overcharged various government entities by surreptitiously increasing the prices it was charging for its services by 18%. Stericycle agreed to pay three-times the amount of the alleged overcharges. The whistleblower, Jennifer Perez, who filed a False Claims Act lawsuit in the Federal District Court in Chicago, will receive a portion of the settlement proceeds. Ms. Perez's attorneys praised the New York Attorney General's office for aggressively investigating the allegations, leading to a successful settlement. Ms. Perez's attorneys also indicated that other government entities are still investigating the allegations against Stericycle.