U.S. Attorney Robert Pitman announced yesterday that Baptist Healthcare has agreed to pay almost $3.7 million to settle allegations that it had submitted false claims for payment to the government.
The allegations centered on the failure of the facility to evaluate whether patients had alternative sources of payment that would have relieved Medicare of its responsibility to pay.
“Systematic fraud, when an institution makes a practice of cheating the government and, by extension, taxpayers, is no less devastating to the health care economy than that fraud which is enacted in dishonesty,” commented James Kauffman, an attorney with the Levin, Papantonio law firm who practices in the areas of qui tam or whistleblower and false claims act law.
The current suit will settle for $3,675,000, of which Norma Rivera, the whistleblower who filed the lawsuit against Baptist will receive $661,500 for her efforts. The False Claims Act allows for individuals that have knowledge of fraud being committed against the government to come forward and file suit against the entity committing the fraud and pursue recovery on behalf of the government.
“Without the provisions and protections of the False Claims Act, whistleblowers would have little in the way of compensation for their efforts at combating fraud committed against their government,” Mr. Kauffman continued. “Fortunately, the False Claims Act stands as a testament that the government will empower its citizens to defend the interests of the government and its citizens.”
Norma Rivera’s lawsuit concludes allegations of Medicare fraud spanning from 2003 through 2007 against Baptist Health System in San Antonio.