Kmart Agrees to Pay $32.3 million to Settle Whistle Blower’s False Claims Act Suit

PS 3 Indest-2009-2By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On December 22, 2017, Kmart Corporation agreed to pay $32.3 million to settle a whistle blower lawsuit alleging its pharmacies caused federal health programs to overpay for prescription drugs by not telling the government about discounted prices. The department store chain withheld certain information from Medicare Part D, Medicaid and Tricare, the Department of Justice (DOJ) said.

The Whistle Blower False Claims Act (FCA) Suit.

The new agreement resolves allegations arising from a 2008 lawsuit brought under the qui tam, or whistle blower, provisions of the False Claims Act (FCA). This provision permits private citizens with knowledge of fraud against the government to bring an action on behalf of the United States and to share in any recovery.

The 2008 lawsuit, which was filed by a former Kmart pharmacist, alleged that Kmart pharmacies offered discounted generic drug prices to cash paying customers through various club programs. The pharmacies then knowingly failed to disclose those prices when reporting to federal health programs. According to the suit, in one case, Kmart had sold a 30-day supply of a generic version of a prescription drug for $5 to customers of its discount program, but then filed for reimbursement from the government for $152 for that same drug for its Medicare customers.
To read more on the 2008 suit, click here.

The settlement agreement with the United States is a part of a global $59 million settlement that includes a resolution of state Medicaid and insurance claims against Kmart. The former pharmacist will receive a whistle blower award of $9.3 million. The case was heard in the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Illinois.

To read the DOJ’s press release on this case in full, click here.

To read about a similar case of a pharmacy inflating prices to government health care programs, click here to read one of my prior blogs.

Who Knew Medicare Part D Claims Could Yield Such Big Whistle Blower Settlements?

Who knew Medicare part D claims could yield such big whistle blower settlements? I know I didn’t. I didn’t even think about such claims until I read this case. This could mean some serious compliance issues for big chain stores that have pharmacies (note that I said “could”). Walmart, Publix, Albertsons, Costco, Sam’s Club, Winn Dixie, Engel’s, and every other chain that owns and operates pharmacies, may be in jeopardy.

Contact an Experienced Health Law Attorney to Assist in Whistleblower/Qui Tam Cases.

If you have knowledge of false claims being filed against Medicare, Medicaid, TRICARE/CHAMPUS or any other type of government program, please contact us, and we will be happy to assist you. Our law firm represents health professionals and health care organizations almost exclusively. Yet, we have been involved in a number of whistleblower/qui tam cases, in which we represent the person who files the claim (the whistle blower). We have also defended health professionals and institutions in litigation of whistle blower complaints filed against them.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at
www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

McCausland, Phil. “Kmart to pay $32.3M to settle health care-related whistleblower case.” NBC News. (December 22, 2017). Web.

The Associated Press. “Kmart to pay $32.3 million to settle prescription drugs case.” ABC News. (December 22, 2017). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

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“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999. Copyright 2018 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

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U.S. Court in Florida Dismisses Whistleblower’s Complaint Against Nuclear Pharmacy

PS 4 Indest-2009-3By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On September 28, 2017, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida dismissed a relator’s (whistle blower’s) False Claims Act (FCA) complaint against a nuclear pharmacy in Tampa. The court found that the relator failed to plead fraud with the required amount of specificity that the law requires.  The case awas filed against GE Healthcare, Inc.’s nuclear pharmacy.

The Allegations.

GE Healthcare operates 31 nuclear pharmacies in the United States, where it produces radiopharmaceuticals through a process of compounding drugs.  The relator was a board-certified nuclear pharmacist who formerly worked at GE Healthcare, Inc.’s nuclear pharmacy in Tampa, Florida. The relator’s allegations included the manner in which GE compounded and labeled radiopharmaceuticals. More specifically, the whistle blower claimed that GE sold diluted and expired drugs. Additionally, the whistle blower alleged that GE falsely inflated the reimbursement rate for certain drugs by providing false sales data to Medicare.

GE argued that the realtor’s claims should be dismissed pursuant to the FCA’s public disclosure bar because the allegations overlapped with an action filed by a different relator, James Wagel, in 2006. To read about this FCA case, click here.

The Court’s Decision. 

The court found that Sunil Patel’s allegations were not “based on” or “substantially the same as” the allegations in the prior public disclosures. However, the court dismissed the realtor’s claims on another ground:  failing to plead the allegedly fraudulent claims with sufficient particularity. According to the court, the allegations that defendant “presented or caused to be presented” a false claim fell “well short of alleging ‘exact billing data.'”  In other words, the relator failed to plead one or more false claims by giving the specifics, such as date, amount, patient, billing code, amount paid by the government, etc.  The court found that the relator identified no “particular facts about the ‘who,’ ‘what,’ ‘where,’ ‘when,’ and ‘how’ of fraudulent submissions to the government.”

The case is United States ex rel. Patel v. GE Healthcare Inc., No. 8:14-cv-120-T-33TGW (M.D. Fla. Sept. 28, 2017).

Click here to read one of my prior blogs on a similar FCA case involving a pharmaceutical company.

Specifics of the False Claims Are Required for Any Qui Tam Whistle Blower’s Case.

This is one of the biggest short comings we see in potential clients who contact us with information about false claims being submitted by their employers or other healthcare providers.  They do not have the specifics of any single false claim.  Yet the law requires this or a whistle blower’s case can get dismissed by the court outright.  You can do an awful lot of work investigating, pleading and litigating a whistle blower’s case only to have the court dismiss it without its ever getting anywhere near a trial.  Even if a scheme or system is inherently fraudulent, you must be able to show one or more claims that were submitted were actually false claims.

We advise health care professionals who consult us with possible False Claims Act/whistle blowers cases, be sure you have the details, and preferably copies of the documents, that show a false bill was submitted to the government.  This can be a CMS Form 1500 or an explanation of benefits that the patient and the insurer or facility receives back.  Sometimes you can get these form the patient if you do not have access to these from the employer.  But without a false claim and, preferably, a number of false claims, you don’t really have a False Claims Act suit.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Qui Tam or Whistle Blower Cases.

Attorneys with The Health Law Firm also represent health care professionals and health facilities in qui tam or whistleblower cases both in defending such claims and in bringing such claims. We have developed relationships with recognized experts in health care accounting, health care financing, utilization review, medical review, filling, coding, and other services that assist us in such matters. We have represented doctors, nurses and others as relators in bringing qui tam or whistleblower cases, as well.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at http://www.TheHealthLawFirm.com

Sources:

Fraud and Compliance. “U.S. Court in Florida Dismisses Whistleblower Action Against Nuclear Pharmacy.” AHLA Weekly. (October 6, 2017). Web.

Mayo, Rebecca. “Evidence of likely submission not enough to prove FCA violation.” Wolters Kluwer Health Law Daily. (October 2, 2017). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law.  He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice.  Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area.  www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

KeyWords: Health care fraud defense attorney, legal representation for allegations of health care fraud, False Claims Act (FCA) attorney, FCA defense attorney, False Claims attorney, legal representation for FCA investigations, legal representation for FCA complaints, Whistleblower attorney, Whistleblower defense attorney, legal representation for Whistleblower investigations, legal representation for Whistleblower complaints, qui tam attorney, qui tam defense attorney, legal representation for qui tam cases, legal representation for qui tam investigations, FCA legal representation, relator attorney, relator defense attorney, health law defense attorney, The Health Law Firm, reviews of The Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.Copyright © 2017 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.