Physicians from across the county have agreed to pay over $1.1 million to resolve allegations that claim they referred patients to genetic testing in exchange for money from a now-defunct Renton company, which charged Medicare millions.
The testing company, Natural Molecular Testing Corporation (NMTC), is alleged to have offered payments or “kickbacks” to three physicians and one cardiac center in Birmingham, Alabama, in exchange for ordering genetic testing from NMTC. The Renton company would then also bill the costs to Medicare.
“Providers who line their pockets by ordering unnecessary tests increase medical costs for all of us and drain critical funds from Medicare and other government health programs,” U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran stated in a Department of Justice press release. “The government will continue to hold accountable medical professionals who undermine our health care system by accepting illegal kickbacks.”
NMTC declared bankruptcy in 2013 in the face of an audit and concerns over its business practices, reported the Washington Post in 2017. It has an unsecured claim against it for $70 million from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. According to the release, the centers have little chance of recovering the money due to NMTC’s few remaining assets.
According to the press release, the settlement agreements state physicians Gregory Sampognaro of Monroe, Louisiana, Warren and Isabella Strickland of Huntsville, Alabama, and a cardiac center named Cardiology P.C. accepted payments between 2012 and 2013. This is alleged to be in violation of the Anti-Kickback Statute and civil False Claims Act.
“Patients, taxpayers and Federal health care programs are all victimized when providers work in exchange for kickbacks— as the government contended in this case,” stated Steven Ryan, the Special Agent in Charge for the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in the release. “We will continue working with our law enforcement partners to hold such providers accountable.”
The claims resolved by the settlement are allegations only and liability hasn’t been determined, according to the release.
The Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General investigated this matter. Assistant United States Attorneys Kayla Stahman and Ashley Burns negotiated the settlements.