In another whistleblower lawsuit, medical equipment supplier Hill-Rom has agreed to pay $41.8 million in a Medicare fraud lawsuit in a lawsuit brought by two Tennessee whistleblowers. This is the largest civil fraud recovery ever by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Tennessee. U.S. Attorney Bill Killian said during a news conference that “(h)ealth care fraud or false claims have become a very serious problem.” This may well be the understatement of the month!

The two Former Hill-Rom senior account managers, Lisa Brocco and Laurie Salmons, filed their sealed complaint in Knoxville in April 2005. The women said they learned Hill-Rom was receiving Medicare payments for specialized equipment – bed support surfaces for treatment of pressure ulcers or bed sores- on patients who didn’t qualify for the program. In some cases, they said claims continued to be submitted although patients had died or were no longer using the equipment.

The settlement by Hill-Rom will compensate the Medicare trust fund for the moneys it paid, claimed and received from 1999 through 2007. Hill-Rom also entered into a comprehensive five-year Corporate Integrity Agreement with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General to ensure future compliance with federal health care benefit program requirements. Interestingly, after the suit was filed, Ms. Salmons was laid off, but Ms. Brocco is still employed and continues to work for the company.

Hill-Rom, based in Batesville, Indiana, is one of the largest national medical equipment suppliers. It has a national presence, including offices in Knoxville and the surrounding area. The women were represented in this case by David Burkhalter, a lawyer from Knoxville. He did a very good job. As a side note, I have to wonder what it will take to put a stop to all of the fraud and cheating by large corporations which do doing business with the federal government. Maybe we should adopt a “one strike and out” approach in dealing with the problem. Until that happens, these contractors will continue to cheat, get caught and pay fines. Thank goodness the court system is open and available to deal with this problem!


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