Companies involved in remote heart monitoring through the use of the Pocket ECG device have agreed to pay the Justice Department $13.4 million to resolve allegations that they violated the False Claims Act by billing Medicare for higher and more expensive levels of cardiac monitoring services than requested by the ordering physicians.
The resolution of the False Claims Act allegations was announced in a Department of Justice press release issued yesterday.
In the news release, the Justice Department alleges that AMI Monitoring Inc. aka Spectocor, its owner, Joseph Bogdan, Medi-Lynx Cardiac Monitoring LLC, and Medicalgorithmics SA, the current majority owner of Medi-Lynx Cardiac Monitoring LLC, fraudulently increased medical bills.
Spectocor and Bogdan have agreed to pay $10.56 million, and Medi-Lynx and Medicalgorithmics have agreed to pay $2.89 million, according to the press release.
As outlined in the Justice Department press release, from 2011 through 2016, Spectocor, headquartered in McKinney, Texas, and Joseph Bogdan, allegedly marketed the Pocket ECG as capable of performing three separate types of cardiac monitoring services—holter, event, and telemetry. “When a physician sought to enroll a patient for Pocket ECG, however, the enrollment process allegedly only allowed the physician to enroll in Pocket ECG for the service which provided the highest rate of reimbursement provided by a patient’s insurance, thus steering the ordering physician to a more costly level of service. In 2013, Medi-Lynx, a related company headquartered in Plano, Texas, began selling the Pocket ECG and allegedly adopted this same enrollment procedure. Medicalgorithmics SA, a limited liability company based in Warsaw, Poland, acquired a controlling interest in Medi-Lynx in September 2016,” the DOJ stated.
“Sophisticated medical technology can be used to help doctors dramatically improve the lives of their patients, but it can also be misused to fraudulently increase medical bills,” Acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick for the District of New Jersey said in a prepared statement. “Today’s settlement demonstrates that the federal government is committed to preserving the integrity of the Medicare system and ensuring that Medicare funds are spent only for patient care.”
“Billing for unneeded services, as the government alleged, takes unfair advantage of Medicare patients and steals from taxpayers,” Special Agent in Charge Scott J. Lampert for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), said. “OIG, along with our law enforcement partners, will aggressively investigate these crimes.”
The settlements resolve allegations filed in a lawsuit by Eben Steele, a former sales manager at Spectocor. The lawsuit was filed in a federal court in Newark, New Jersey, under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act, which permit private individuals to sue on behalf of the government for false claims and to share in any recovery. The Act also allows the government to intervene and take over the action, as it did in this case. Mr. Steele will receive approximately $2.4 million from the two settlements.
The case is captioned United States ex rel. John Doe v. Spectocor Enterprise Services, LLC, et al., Case No. 14-1387 (KSH) (D. N.J.). The claims resolved by the settlements are allegations only and there has been no determination of liability.
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