A whistleblower lawsuit alleging eye surgeons took illegal kickbacks from medical suppliers has been settled for $12 million.
A former executive of Sightpath Medical and Precision Lens accused the company of bribing physicians to promote its products in cataract surgeries and related procedures by offering them luxurious vacations, free equipment, and easy-street paid consulting gigs.
Sightpath Medical is a mobile ophthalmic company that works across many states. Under federal law, it is illegal for medical device companies to pay kickbacks in the form of goods or services for Medicare and other federal health care programs.
According to the whistleblower lawsuit, Sightpath treated eye surgeons to travel and accommodations including high-end skiing trips, fishing and hunting trips, and golf. The illegal kickbacks also allegedly included paying doctors thousands of dollars in consulting fees for little or no work, and providing expensive surgical equipment.
Further, alleged the whistleblower lawsuit, eye surgeons failed to properly document their services, if they documented them at all, which were performed in return for consulting fees that ran into thousands of dollars each month. In return, the eye surgeons allegedly promoted the use of the medical device companies’ cataract products to patients.
Whistleblower Receives $2.3 Million for Reporting the Fraud
Under the terms of the whistleblower settlement, the company will pay $11.65 million and Sightpath’s former CEO will pay $350,000 to resolve the claims of illegal kickbacks.
The former executive who raised concerns and initiated the whistleblower lawsuit will receive $2.3 million under federal whistleblower law.
Sightpath and Preceision Lens is a company based in Bloomington, Minn. The whistleblower alleged that company executives bribed physicians with illegal kickbacks for almost a decade. The illegal kickbacks, stated the whistleblower’s lawsuit, were a way for Sightpath to increase payments from Medicare and other federal healthcare programs as well.
“Medicare beneficiaries depend on their physicians to make decisions based on sound medical judgment,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Chad Blumenfield said in a statement reported by the StarTribune. “Our office will take decisive action to address allegations that medical providers are receiving improper financial benefits that could influence medical decision-making.”
The whistleblower’s claims of illegal kickbacks triggered a federal investigation by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The U.S. Attorney’s Office also intervened in a related lawsuit against medical device suppliers Cameron-Ehlen Group, Inc.
Sightpath’s former CEO, who served from 2010 until 2013, was allegedly directly involved in the deal making for the illegal kickbacks between the medical device company and physicians. He also joined in the luxe vacations, alleged the whistleblower. However, according to statements from the former CEO’s attorney, his share of the settlement will be paid by Sightpath.
Further, Sightpath has agreed to enter into a “corporate integrity agreement” as a part of the whistleblower settlement agreement.
Do you have evidence of employer misconduct such as illegal kickbacks, Medicare/Medicaid fraud, health insurance fraud, or other illegal activity that is defrauding the government? You may be eligible to file a whistleblower lawsuit. Fill out the form on this page now for a free case evaluation.