Vitas Healthcare Corporation Midwest, part of a national hospice care provider, and related companies agreed to pay the U.S. $200,000 to resolve allegations it violated the False Claims Act and Anti-Kickback Statute by paying a convicted cancer doctor for patient referrals.
According to U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade, whose office prosecuted the case alongside the Department of Health and Human Services, Eastern District of Michigan, Vitas paid Swan For Life Cancer Foundation, a charity established by Dr. Farid Fata, several thousand dollars in exchange for patient referrals.
Dr. Fata, the former owner of Michigan Hematology and Oncology, is serving a 45-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to 13 counts of health care fraud, one count of conspiracy, and two counts of money laundering. The oncologist admitted he made millions of dollars by subjecting patients to unneeded cancer treatments and then billing Medicare for the services.
Attorney McQuade’s office said that in one case, Dr. Fata allegedly forced a patient who fell and suffered a head injury to undergo unneeded chemotherapy before receiving medical treatment for his head. The patient subsequently died as a result of his head injury.
The alleged fraud lasted from November 2012 to January 2014, according to lawsuit, which Rita Dubois, Vitas’ former director of market development for Southeast Michigan, filed under the whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act.
“Patients deserve to receive referrals based on the quality of the services provided, not based on illegal kickback arrangements between medical providers,” Attorney General McQuade said in a statement about the settlement. “We are working to root out practices that enrich doctors and medical businesses at the expense and potential safety of patients.”
Ms. Dubois will receive $36,000 of the total recovery as an award for her role in filing the False Claims Act complaint.