VPA to Pay $9.5 Million to Settle FCA Suits


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Jan. 12, 2010

VPA to pay $9.5M to settle whistle-blower lawsuits

By Jay Greene


Voluntary Physicians Association, a Farmington Hills-based home health care company, has agreed to pay $9.5 million to settle four whistle-blower lawsuits, according to Terrence Berg, first assistant with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit.

The agreement settles allegations that VPA submitted claims to Medicare, TriCare and the Michigan Medicaid program for unnecessary home visits, tests and procedures and for more complex evaluation and management services than were actually provided, Berg said. TriCare is the U.S. military health plan.

Of the $9.5 million, Michigan is expected to receive $93,695. The whistle-blowers named in the settlement will split $1.7 million. The remainder goes back to the Medicare program.

“The government elected to pursue a civil remedy only, with no treble damages and no claim or finding of criminal wrongdoing,” Michael Layne, a spokesman for VPA and co-founder of Farmington Hills-based Marx Layne & Co., said in a statement to Crain’s.

“An audit determined there was an overpayment of certain claims between the years 1999 and 2006,” Layne said.

Berg said that while VPA didn’t admit liability, “it doesn’t mean the government’s allegations don’t have any merit. We do believe it has merit and view it as a serious matter.”

As part of the settlement, VPA has agreed to a compliance program with the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Under the compliance program, VPA has developed a training and auditing program for employees to ensure all state and federal laws are followed.

“We can keep an eye on the company through the compliance agreement,” Berg said.

Layne said VPA will continue its core mission of providing home health services.

“At no time during this dispute did any party make any allegations of inappropriate patient care,” Layne said. “We are proud that during this difficult period we added hundreds of jobs in the communities we serve and expanded to serve thousands of additional patients across the country.”

VPA, which has 16 offices in Michigan, Ohio, Georgia and Wisconsin, is affiliated with U.S. Medical Management, a medical services organization headed by CEO Mark Mitchell. VPA provides medical care and services through home visits to patients.

The settlement involves four lawsuits filed by six private plaintiffs under the whistle-blower provisions of the False Claims Act, which permit private parties to file an action on the government’s behalf and share in any recovery.

Two of the whistle-blowers are from Michigan. One is Wally Mahar, M.D., a physician from Oakland County who worked for VPA from July 1997 to August 1997. Mahar first filed his whistle-blower lawsuit in 2003 and amended it in 2007.

According to his lawsuit, Mahar said he was instructed by VPA to see eight to 10 patients a day. He said VPA attempted to “coerce Mahar to bill for unnecessary tests and procedures and at inflated rates.”

The other whistle-blower from Michigan was James Murray, a medical technician who worked in a VPA office in Southfield in January 2004.

SOURCE Crain’s Detroit Business

Read the full article here.



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