Adventist To Pay More Than $2 Million To Resolve False Claims Allegations
Tampa, FL – United States Attorney A. Lee Bentley, III announces that Adventist Health System Sunbelt Healthcare Corporation (Adventist) has agreed to pay the government $2.09 million to resolve allegations that patients were administered portions of single-dose vials of chemotherapy drugs that were left over from administrations to prior patients.
Subject to a very few strict exceptions not applicable here, these single-dose vials of chemotherapy drugs can only be accessed once and their contents (whether some or all) can only be administered to one patient. That is because these single-dose vials lack any anti-microbial ingredients or other preservatives, and accessing them can introduce harmful agents that can be passed on to subseqent patients.
This settlement also resolves allegations that some platinum based drugs were administered inappropriately; that certain infusion services were upcoded; and that some patients had to be admitted for treatment as a result of the foregoing acts and omissions.
These events occurred between late 2007 and mid-2011, at an Adventist location in Central Florida, and resulted in the submission of improper claims to federal government health care programs, including Medicare, TRICARE, and the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. In January 2012, Adventist voluntarily self-disclosed certain of the above-described conduct to the United States and repaid $819,828.82 to the United States. The company will receive a credit of that amount toward the $2.09 million obligation.
“Beneficiaries of federal health care plans, particularly those undergoing chemotherapy treatment for cancer, should not be treated with drugs that present unnecessary and avoidable risks,” stated U.S. Attorney Bentley. “When a lack of proper oversight permits circumstances like this to occur, resulting in the submission of false healthcare claims, responsible providers will be held accountable.”
“These actions put patients at needless risk in an attempt to boost profits at taxpayer expense,” said Shimon R. Richmond, Special Agent in Charge for the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “This settlement demonstrates that such practices have consequences.”
The settlement resolves allegations in a lawsuit filed by relator Heather Huddleston in February 2013. Huddleston’s suit was filed under the whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act, which authorizes private parties to sue for false claims on behalf of the United States and to share in any recovery. Huddleston was formerly employed by Adventist and had disclosed certain of the conduct internally to Adventist in 2011. The relator will be receiving $376,452 from the proceeds of the settlement.
This case was investigated jointly by Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles Harden of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida; Trial Attorney Tom Morris of the Commercial Litigation Branch of the Justice Department’s Civil Division; the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – Office of Inspector General; and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The lawsuit was filed in the Middle District of Florida, and is captioned United States ex rel. Huddleston v. Adventist Health System Sunbelt Healthcare Corporation, Case No. 8:13-cv-710-T-27-EAJ (M.D. Fla.).
The claims resolved by the settlement are allegations only; there has been no determination of liability.