On October 26, Roger B. Handberg, the United States Attorney for the Middle District of Florida, announced that Putnam Community Medical Center of North Florida agreed to pay $1 million to settle charges that it violated the False Claims Act (FCA). The charges stemmed from a qui tam whistleblower lawsuit.
According to the government, “Putnam Community Medical Center provided diagnostic sleep testing services at its now-closed sleep center, which the United States and the State of Florida allege were not provided with adequate physician supervision as required under certain Medicare coverage determinations and regulations during the period from December 2013 through February 2019.”
Whistleblower Willard Revels, a former sleep center employee, filed a qui tam lawsuit bringing these allegations forward. Qui tam enables private citizens to file lawsuits on behalf of the government if they know of an individual or company defrauding the government. In successful qui tam suits, whistleblowers are entitled to 15-30% of the funds collected by the government. Revels is set to receive $300,000.
“Providers who participate in federal health care programs must follow the law governing the integrity of federally funded health care programs such as Medicare and Medicaid,” said Stephen Mahmood, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG). “HHS-OIG is committed to protecting the integrity of the Medicare and Medicaid programs and the people it serves. We will continue to work with the United States Attorney’s Office and other law enforcement partners to address allegations brought under the False Claims Act.”
On July 25, a bipartisan group of senators introduced the False Claims Amendments Act of 2023, which address a few technical loopholes undermining the success of the FCA. The bill is widely supported by whistleblower advocates.
“The False Claims Act is America’s number one fraud-fighting law,” said whistleblower attorney Stephen M. Kohn. “These amendments are urgently needed to ensure that whistleblowers can continue to play their key role in protecting taxpayers from corporate criminals.”