On September 11, 2017, the Justice Department announced a $2 million settlement with Family Medicine Centers of South Carolina for allegedly violating the False Claims Act. Bert Louthian, who worked with Dick Harpootlian in handling this case, is proud of the efforts by whistleblower Dr. Catherine A. Schaefer and the work done by the authorities to recover the amount on behalf of the government.
The Family Medicine Centers of South Carolina operate several locations in the Columbia area, including Springwood Lake Family Practice, Woodhill Family Practice, Midtown Family Practice, Saluda Pointe Family Medicine and Lake Murray Family Medicine.
The principal owner and former chief executive officer of Family Medicine Centers, Dr. Stephen F. Serbin, and the former laboratory director, Victoria Serbin, both of whom deny the allegations, will pay the settlement and step away from the practice for five years, leaving management and claim reviews to other appointees.
The $2 million settlement arose from allegations that the practice falsely billed Medicare and TRICARE, targeting “American service members, veterans and their families,” according to Deputy Director Guy Kiyokawa of the Defense Health Agency. The allegations against FMC include its “incentive compensation plan that paid FMC’s physicians a percentage of the value of laboratory and other diagnostic tests that they personally ordered through FMC, which FMC then billed to Medicare,” according to the Department of Justice press release.
The settlement began with a lawsuit filed under the False Claims Act by Dr. Schaefer, a physician who was employed by FMC. Through her lawsuit, Dr. Schaefer acted as a whistleblower on behalf of the government and will receive $340,510 as a reward for her efforts.
The False Claims Act is a law designed to enable whistleblowers to come forward with knowledge of wrongdoing and prevent fraud, abuse and waste. Like Dr. Schaefer, whistleblowers are often former employees of companies allegedly committing the fraud. The authorities reward whistleblowers a portion of the recovered amount, typically between 15 to 30 percent, if the information they provide is central to the recovery.
Whistleblowers do a great public service by notifying the authorities of fraud and abuse. The information they provide not only helps the government stop ongoing fraud, but also prevents further loss of taxpayers’ dollars. Healthcare fraud costs the United States billions of dollars every year. Programs like Medicare and TRICARE, which are well-funded and cover millions of Americans, are especially vulnerable to fraudulent activity. The False Claims Act and the whistleblowers it empowers are essential to stopping fraud and abuse.
If you’d like to learn more about filing a whistleblower claim or how the False Claims Act enables citizens to file lawsuits on behalf of the government, contact the Louthian Law Firm. Bert Louthian is committed to stopping fraud, abuse and waste in our healthcare system and aiding whistleblowers in building successful claims.
For a free, confidential evaluation of your case, call the Louthian Law Firm today at 1-877-959-3191 or, if you prefer, you can fill out our online contact form.