[Ed. Note. This story is in two parts. Part one outlines the attempt of Dr. Asad Ullah Qamar to avoid a whistleblower Medicare fraud lawsuit by filing bankruptcy. Since the first post was written, the court has now ruled in favor of the government and whistleblowers.]
Earlier this year, Dr. Asad Qamar, his wife and his clinic called the Institute of Cardiovascular Excellence, all filed for bankruptcy protection. The filing is believed to be in response to two whistleblower lawsuits, one of which was filed by another physician. After the filings, Qamar told the court that the whistleblower claims should be stayed during the bankruptcy.
On April 26th, a federal District Court Judge denied Qamar’s request and said the case can proceed as planned. In a short, two page order, Judge Roy Dalton said the case can proceed to trial but the collection of any future judgment would be stayed until considered by the bankruptcy court. This means the whistleblower’s Medicare fraud claims won’t be sidelined for years while the bankruptcy case inches forward.
Dr. Qamar is apparently not happy with the court’s decision and this week asked the court to “reconsider” its previous order. Qamar believes that he was not given enough time to make his case to the court.
Although some delays are inevitable, a delay of one or more years usually hurts the prosecution. The burden of proof in Medicare fraud cases is on the government or whistleblower. Lengthy delays often mean that critical witnesses move or memories fade. Jurors often have less interest in very old cases.
Bankruptcy filings and delays also give fraudsters time to hide their assets or spend what money they have. By the time a case can finally go to trial, the fraudster has nothing.
False Claims Act and Medicare Fraud
The two whistleblower lawsuits filed against Dr. Qamar were filed under the False Claims Act. One case was filed under the federal False Claims Act while the 2nd suit was filed under a similar Florida law that covers Medicaid fraud.
Both laws allow ordinary citizens to file lawsuits against wrongdoers who seek to steal from taxpayers. Since Medicare is financed with federal tax dollars, doctors and others who ripoff Medicare can be prosecuted under the federal Act. 29 states including Florida have a similar state law that covers the state financed Medicaid program.
Both laws allow the person coming forward – called a whistleblower or “relator” – to receive an award of up to 30% of whatever the government collects from the wrongdoer. Million dollar awards are not uncommon.
Last week’s ruling is not a finding of guilt or fault against Dr. Qamar and his clinic. The ruling simply says the case can proceed without further delay. Qamar continues to profess his innocence.
POST SCRIPT – QAMAR TO PAY $5.3 MILLION TO SETTLE MEDICARE FRAUD ALLEGATIONS
The Justice Department announced on June 30th that Dr. Asad Qamar and his Institute of Cardiovascular Excellence (ICE), will pay $2 million, plus release claims to $5.3 million in suspended Medicare funds, to resolve a lawsuit alleging that he improperly billed Medicare, Medicaid for medically unnecessary procedures. The settlement also resolves allegations surrounding alleged kickbacks paid to patients in the form of Medicare copay waivers. He also is ineligible to participate in the Medicare, Medicaid or Tricare healthcare programs for the next 3 years.
Dr. Qamar and ICE were allowed to settle without admitting any wrongdoing.
In announcing the settlement, a Justice Department spokesperson said,
“Patient safety is of paramount importance. When a doctor performs medically unnecessary and invasive procedures on Medicare patients, federal healthcare programs are defrauded and, more importantly, patients’ lives and wellbeing are recklessly put at risk. This case shows our office’s steadfast commitment to holding medical providers personally responsible for their actions.”
Just 10 days before the settlement was announced, Qamar said he was not going to agree to the Justice Department’s terms. He also told reporters that his staff was ready to go on a hunger strike in support of his fight against the government. A report in the Ocala Star Banner claimed that when a journalist interviewed five of his staff, no one knew anything of a hunger strike.
Government Pays $1,327,721 Whistleblower Award
As we have previously noted, this case was brought as a whistleblower action under the False Claims Act. According to the Justice Department a whistleblower award of $1,327,721 will be split between Dr. Robert Green and Ms. Holly Taylor.
Collect Your Own Whistleblower Award
The False Claim Act is available to anyone who has first hand knowledge of fraud involving tax dollars or tax funded programs. Knowledge gained from newspapers and friends doesn’t qualify.
The law also has a first to file requirement. If you have information about fraud, don’t delay. [Be sure to visit our Medicare fraud information page for more tips and suggestions.]
MahanyLaw – America’s Whistleblower Lawyers
To date our experienced whistleblower lawyers have helped clients collect over $100 million in awards. We have the experience and drive to take on big cases and big companies. Most importantly, we view our clients like family. Our goal is always to team up with our clients to protect against retaliation, stop the fraud and get the largest whistleblower awards possible.