A New Jersey cardiologist will receive $2.4 million for his role in a whistleblower lawsuit against Cooper Health System and Cooper University Hospital. Following an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice and the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office, Cooper agreed last month to pay $12.6 million to settle Medicare and Medicaid fraud allegations. The federal qui tam lawsuit was originally filed by Delaware Valley cardiologist Nicholas L. DePace, who claimed that Cooper paid illegal kickbacks to physicians for patient referrals. In the suit Dr. DePace claimed:
Cooper funneled illegal kickbacks to referring physicians through an advisory board known as the Cooper Heart Institute Advisory Board… with the stated purpose of utilizing prominent New Jersey physicians to advise the Cooper Heart Institute regarding innovative technologies, new management strategies, community needs, and appropriate educational and research initiatives. The board was a sham, in which Cooper paid physicians with high-volume medical practices upwards of $18,500 each to do little more than watch four lectures per year hosted at an elegant banquet facility. These lectures consisted mostly of a marketing presentation on cardiac care at Cooper. Additional lectures included generic subjects that were irrelevant to the stated mission of the CHIAB, including a 2008 lecture entitled: ‘The Healthcare Plans of the Two Presidential Candidates.’ There were no advisory services being given in exchange for the physicians payments they were receiving.
According to the New Jersey Attorney General’s office, Cooper is said to have taken responsibility for its past misconduct. Even though Cooper paid $12.6 million, the president and CEO of Cooper University Hospital said in a media statement that Cooper did not admit to any wrongdoing in the settlement. Maybe so, but it’s my hope that a lesson was learned by those in charge of running Cooper. It shouldn’t pay to cheat the government.
Readers of this Report should keep their eyes open for theft of government funds. These whistleblower actions are becoming more frequent and are needed to help expose fraud and corruption involved in government programs. Lawyers in our firm are pursuing qui tam cases on a frequent basis. We believe entities that take advantage of and cheat the government should be held accountable. Should you have information concerning a potential case, contact Dee Miles, Clay Barnett or Scarlett Tuley, lawyers in our firm’s Consumer Fraud Section, at 800-898-2034 or by email at Dee.Miles@beasleyallen.com; Clay.Barnett@beasleyallen.com; or Scarlett.Tuley@beasleyallen.com.
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