A nurse anesthesia group has agreed to pay more than $1 million to settle claims that it paid kickbacks in return for exclusive contracts to provide services to Medicare and Medicaid patients.
Adam Nauss was a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) who worked for the Sweet Dreams Nurse Anesthesia group as an independent contractor. In September 2014, he filed a qui tam or whistleblower lawsuit alleging that his employer was violating state and federal False Claims Acts by paying kickbacks in return for referrals of Medicare and Medicaid patients.
The lawsuit was filed “under seal” (that is, in secret) to allow the government time to conduct an investigation.
According to the whistleblower complaint, Sweet Dreams provided free anesthesia drugs to ambulatory surgery centers in exchange for exclusive contracts to provide anesthesia services at those centers. The complaint also alleged that a Sweet Dreams affiliate funded the construction of an ambulatory surgery center in exchange for contracts to be the exclusive anesthesia provider at that facility.
It is illegal for a healthcare provider to pay anything of value in return for exclusive contracts or referrals of Medicare or Medicaid patients. Such payments violate the Anti-Kickback Statute. In addition, any claims for reimbursement submitted to Medicare or Medicaid for services provided as a result of kickbacks are considered “false claims” under the federal and state False Claims Acts.
The government conducted an investigation into the alleged kickbacks based on the information provided by the whistleblower. After 22 months, the government reached an agreement with Sweet Dreams to pay back more than $1 million to settle the kickback allegations.
Rewards for Whistleblowers Can Be Substantial
Under the False Claims Act, the whistleblower is entitled to a reward of between 15% and 25% of the amount the government actually recovers. In this case, the whistleblower will receive a reward of between $150,000 and $250,000, plus attorneys’ fees and costs.
If you have evidence that a healthcare provider is providing anything of value in return for exclusive contracts or referrals of Medicare and Medicaid patients, then you should consult with an experienced whistleblower lawyer immediately to protect your rights. You may be entitled to a substantial reward and legal protections as a whistleblower.
Do not delay. Your claims are subject to strict time limits and procedural requirements. To schedule a free and confidential consultation with an experienced whistleblower lawyer, call our law offices today at (212) 601-2728.