Columbus Regional Healthcare to Settle False Claims for $25M; Whistleblower Award TBD

Posted: 09/11/2015  browse the blog archive
Columbus Regional Healthcare to Settle False Claims for $25M; Whistleblower Award TBD

Columbus Regional Healthcare System and Dr. Andrew Pippas have collectively agreed to pay over $25 million to resolve allegations that they knowingly submitted or caused the submission of false claims in violation of the Stark Law, the U.S. Department of Justice announced last week.  Under the settlement agreement, Columbus Regional has agreed to pay $25 million, plus additional contingent payments not to exceed $10 million, for a maximum settlement amount of $35 million, and Pippas has agreed to pay $425,000.

The Stark Law prohibits physician referrals of certain health services for Medicare and Medicaid patients if the physician has a financial relationship with the entity to which he or she refers the patient.  The United States alleged that Columbus Regional provided excessive salary and directorship payments to Pippas that violated the Stark Law.

The United States also alleged that Columbus Regional submitted claims to federal health care programs for services at higher levels than supported by the documentation, and they submitted claims to federal health care programs for radiation therapy at higher levels than the therapy that was provided.

Of the $25.425 million that Columbus Regional and Pippas have agreed to pay to resolve their respective civil claims, they will pay $24,666,040 to the federal government for federal healthcare program losses and $758,960 to the state of Georgia for the state share of its Medicaid losses. 

Also as part of the settlement, Columbus Regional will enter into a Corporate Integrity Agreement (CIA) with the Department of Health and Human Services-Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG) that requires Columbus Regional to implement measures designed to avoid or promptly detect future conduct similar to that which gave rise to this settlement.

The settlements resolve allegations filed in two lawsuits by Richard Barker, a former Columbus Regional executive, in federal court in Columbus, Georgia.  The lawsuits were filed under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the federal False Claims Act and the Georgia False Medicaid Claims Act, which permit private individuals to sue on behalf of the federal and state governments, respectively, for false claims and to share in any recovery.  Mr. Barker’s share of the settlement has not yet been determined.

The Chanler Group, in association with the Hirst Law Group, represents whistleblowers who take action under the False Claims Act to report fraud committed against the federal and state governments.  We have years of experience representing whistleblower clients who expose every kind of fraud against the government, including health care fraud, contract fraud, and tax fraud.  Read more about our expertise in False Claims Act cases and how you can take action.