August 2, 2021 – The United States Department of Justice announced a False Claims Act settlement with a health care provider in Georgia. Under the terms of the settlement, the health care provider paid $130,000 to the United States and the state of Georgia. As a result of this settlement, an individual physician affiliated with this health care provider will be excluded for ten years from participation in all federal healthcare programs. Tycko & Zavareei LLP in partnership with Finch McCranie, LLP represented the whistleblower, who received $26,000 for reporting the conduct to the government.
“My counsel Renee and Eva were absolutely essential for me to be able to make a difference in my community,” said the whistleblower. “They worked tirelessly and shared my passion in making sure that the concerns I reported relating to the North Georgia HealthCare Center were addressed. They supported my efforts, gave me comfort, and brought an abundance of wisdom on representing and protecting whistleblowers. They had my back, and I will forever be thankful to them.”
Defendant North Georgia HealthCare Center Inc. is a Federally Qualified Health Center, a taxpayer-supported health care provider. The purpose of a Federally Qualified Health Center is to provide primary care services in underserved areas. At least 70 percent of the patients seen at this facility are Medicare or Medicaid patients.
According to the allegations, the Federally Qualified Health Center prescribed addictive opioids to patients who did not need them. More particularly, the United States and Georgia contended that they had certain civil claims against this health care provider for causing Medicare and Medicaid claims to be submitted on behalf of patients for prescriptions of Schedule II controlled substances that were not medically necessary. According to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, Schedule II drugs are substances that “have a high potential for abuse which may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence,” including drugs such as methadone, Oxycodone, Percocet, and Fentanyl.
Opioid abuse and addiction have devastated communities throughout the United States. The primary gatekeeper is the medical community, including the prescribers and the pharmacists. Today’s resolution holds a provider accountable for its prescribing conduct.
“The Georgia prosecutors were attentive and took action immediately,” said the whistleblower. “They brought in other government agencies to listen to my allegations. They treated me with respect and understood the swift need for intervention at the healthcare center.”
The Justice Department has described the opioid epidemic as the deadliest drug crisis in American history. A recent former Attorney General vowed “to help combat the devastating opioid crisis that is ravaging families and communities across America.” One of the root causes of the opioid epidemic is the over-prescribing of addictive opiates, resulting in patient harm and patient deaths, which has too often been motivated by financial greed of those responsible for helping patients.
The Justice Department needs whistleblowers to help them fight the opioid crisis. If you would like to report healthcare fraud, you can contact attorneys at Tycko & Zavareei LLP. Eva Gunasekera and Renée Brooker are former officials of the United States Department of Justice and prosecuted whistleblower cases under the False Claims Act. Eva was the Senior Counsel for Health Care Fraud. Renée served as Assistant Director at the United States Department of Justice, the office that supervises False Claims Act cases in all 94 United States District Courts. Eva and Renee now represent whistleblowers. For a free consultation, you can contact Renée at [email protected] (tel.: 202-417-3664) or contact Eva Gunasekera at [email protected]. You can also go to Tycko & Zavareei LLP’s website for whistleblowers to learn more at https://www.fraudfighters.net/.