Qui Tam Whistleblowers Awarded $140 Million Under False Claims Act in Medicare and Medicaid Fraud Cases in FY 2006

Whistleblowers and their attorneys filing suit under the False Claims Act helped federal authorities recover $2.2 billion in Medicare and Medicaid fraud cases in fiscal year 2006, according to a government report just released. The whistleblowers or “relators” received $140 million of the proceeds for their efforts, under the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act.

As this whistleblower lawyer blog has written about extensively, the federal False Claims Act is the government’s “primary” weapon for combating fraud. As health care expenditures have grown as a share of the federal budget, health care fraud now accounts for more than 70% of the government’s annual fraud recoveries.

It was encouraging to see the new “Health Care Fraud and Abuse Control Program Annual Report For FY 2006.” This report by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Department of Justice, summarizes both organization’s FY 2006 results in battling Medicare and Medicaid fraud and recovering money improperly obtained from these programs.

In 2006, DOJ and OIG surpassed their 2005 recoveries totalling $1.47 billion in cases involving health care fraud and abuse.

This report cited 836 new investigations begun during 2006, for a total of 1,677 active investigations. 547 defendants in heath care fraud cases were convicted in criminal prosecutions in 2006.

In civil cases, DOJ took on 915 new health care fraud cases, which raised the total to more than 2000 in 2006.

The largest single recovery was a $900 million settlement Tenet Healthcare Corp. Whistleblowers came forward to report that Tenet was abusing Medicare and paying kickbacks to physicians to send patients to Tenet hospitals.

Other notable recoveries from hospital systems in FY 2006 included St. Barnabas Health Care System in New Jersey ($265 million), Beth Israel Medical Center in New York ($73 million), the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Hospital Authority in Tennessee ($37 million), University Hospitals Health System in Ohio ($13.8 million), Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center in Louisiana ($3.8 million) and the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center in Pennsylvania ($2.9 million).

Pharmaceutical fraud recoveries included $704 million from drug manufacturer Serono, and $435 million from Schering-Plough.

Durable medical equipment (DME) fraud also resulted in significant recoveries.

For those wishing to review the complete report, it is at http://oig.hhs.gov/publications/docs/hcfac/hcfacreport2006.pdf.

We congratulate OIG and DOJ on their successful efforts in recovering more than $2 billion of money fraudulently obtained from health care programs in FY 2006.