Biotronik Inc., a medical device manufacturer based in Berlin, agreed to pay $12.95 million to resolve allegations it violated the False Claims Act. The settlement is based on the allegations that Biotronik caused the submission of false claims to Medicare and Medicaid by paying kickbacks to physicians. The kickbacks included payments to physicians’ for holiday parties, winery tours, lavish meals with no legitimate business purpose, international business class airfare and honoraria in exchange for making brief appearances at international conferences. Wow. Nice. What were these doctors thinking about such a gravy train? I wonder if they have been personally sued too?
The Qui Tam complaint alleges that the kickbacks induced the partying doctors to use Biotronik’s implantable cardiac devices, such as pacemakers and defibrillators. Yes. Pretty important stuff. United States ex rel. Bell, et al. v. Biotronik, Inc. et al., CV18-1895 (C.D. Cal.).
Biotronik also allegedly abused a new employee training program by paying physicians for an excessive number of trainings and, in some cases, for training events that either never occurred (Huh, what training? I came here to play!), or were of little or no value to trainees.
Biotronik allegedly made these payments despite concerns raised by its own compliance department. For a smile see Biopronik’s webpage on Ethics and Compliance. The compliance department of Biotronik supposedly warned that salespeople had too much influence in selecting physicians to conduct new employee training and that the training payments were being over-utilized. Greed can be a powerful motivator. Some companies just pay lip service to Ethics and Compliance. Know of any corporation s like that?
The “whistleblower” complaint was brought by the Relators, Jeffrey Bell and Andrew Schmid. They are former sales reps of Biotronki. They are the ones partying now because each personally received Qui Tam rewards of over a Million Dollars.
Acting United States Attorney Stephanie S. Christensen had this to say:
“Kickbacks to doctors are illegal because they impose hidden costs on the health care system and they taint the doctor-patient relationship. The resolution to this matter concludes a lengthy investigation that demonstrates our commitment to take strong action when patient care takes a backseat to generating profits.
Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division, added:
Paying kickbacks to doctors to influence their selection of medical devices undermines the integrity of federal healthcare programs. When medical devices are used in surgical procedures, patients deserve to know that their device was selected based on quality of care considerations and not on improper payments from manufacturers.
Amen to that! Anyone who has ever had to have surgery would agree. The Special Agent in Charge of the investigation, Timothy DeFrancesca of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) pointed out:
Valuable taxpayer dollars that fund Medicare and Medicaid are meant to support the delivery of health care services most suitable for beneficiaries. The payment of kickbacks to medical providers to impel their use of certain devices can improperly divert those dollars and undermine the quality of care being provided to patients. HHS-OIG remains dedicated to working with fellow law enforcement agencies to safeguard the integrity of federal health care programs and the services they cover.
The federal Anti-Kickback Statute prohibits offering or paying anything of value to induce referrals of items or services covered by Medicare and other federally funded programs. The statute is intended to ensure that medical providers’ judgments are not compromised by improper financial incentives.
As readers here should well know, the civil settlement included payment to the Relators, Mr. Bell and Mr. Schmid, who started this case. They are former independent sales representatives for Biotronik.of approximately. They will split $2.1 million as their share of the recovery in this case, United States ex rel. Bell, et al. v. Biotronik, Inc. et al., CV18-1895 (C.D. Cal.).
Know about fraud like this? Do the country and yourself a favor and turn the fraudsters in. Remember, Fraud Is Bad.