by Brian Mahany
Those suffering with cancer hope and pray that their caregivers are doing everything necessary to get them well. Physicians take an offer to prevent suffering. The oath says in part that, “In every house where I come I will enter only for the good of my patients, keeping myself far from all intentional ill-doing …” Evidently a group of radiologists in metropolitan Atlanta forgot that oath. Radiotherapy Clinics of Georgia agreed to pay $3.8 million to settle a federal false claims act (whistleblower) suit.
According to the complaint filed in federal court, Radiotherapy Clinics of Georgia treats approximately 1,000 prostate cancer patients per year. The medical group is alleged to perform surgical procedures without a typical “pre-plan.” Those patients that had Medicare, however, were billed for the pre-plan even though it was often never performed. Allegedly one of the physicians stated that the patients didn’t really need the pre-plans but that they were a “lucrative component” of their business. In other words, the doctors were simply trying to see how much money could be bilked from taxpayers.
Although not part of the complaint, we wonder how well the patients faired without a traditional pre-planning procedure. In prostrate cancer, a pre-plan is used to determine how much radioactive “seeds” should be implanted in the cancerous area. The whistleblower in the case says this often wasn’t done although Medicare was billed for the procedure. Presumably, if the procedure was ordered and billed it must have some medical relevance.
A second whistleblower made even more serious allegations. Her complaint alleges that the clinic prolongs radiation therapy several more weeks than necessary in order to increase billings. Anyone who has suffered through cancer, or knows someone who has, knows that radiation treatment is often extremely painful. The plaintiff in that case says that the clinic also made false advertising claims touting its success rate – a practice that simply gave people false hopes and may have caused them to make the wrong treatment choices.
Is this complaint simply the ramblings of a disgruntled former employee? No. The whistleblower is a physician – a board certified radiation oncologist and former chief resident at Duke University Medical Center. (The whistleblower in the first case was a former employee of the clinic who reviewed Medicare billings.)
The defendants all denied any wrongdoing. That they paid almost $4 million to settle the charges is quite telling, however. In our experience, innocent people usually don’t write multi-million dollar checks to settle fraud charges. They fight to clear their names.
Whistleblowers who come forward to stop fraud against the government are true heroes. Ripping off the government hurts everyone through higher taxes and less availability of services. We believe that if the complaints here are accurate, the folks at Radiotherapy Clinic are nothing more than criminals. If the allegations are true, the clinic essentially subjected patients to needless suffering and perhaps increase their risk of cancer (too much radiation can cause cancer).
Often whistleblower cases settle meaning we may never know the truth. That a medical practice would pay $3.8 million to settle suggests that there was a great deal of truth to the whistleblowers’ claims.
Under the false claims law, the whistleblowers in this case may collectively receive over $1 million in awards from the court. Typically whistleblowers receive 15 to 30% of what the government collects.
If you know of false Medicare billing, mortgage fraud or any type of fraud against the government, call us. Your information may be quite valuable. There is an old saying that says “no good deed goes unpunished.” That may often be true but the false claims law allows ordinary people to stop fraud, “do the right thing” and get rewarded for their information.
The whistleblower lawyers at Mahany & Ertl have the largest pending false claims act in the country against a mortgage lender – HUD’s $2.4 billion case against Allied Home Mortgage. We understand fraud and are ready to help you do your part.
Mahany & Ertl – America’s Fraud Lawyers. Offices in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Detroit, Michigan; Portland, Maine & Minneapolis, Minnesota. Services available in many jurisdictions.