Linde’s Lincare pays $20 million to settle Medicare suit on fraudulent billing for oxygen

Massachusetts Whistleblower News

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Linde AG’s Lincare unit will pay $20 million to resolve a whistleblower lawsuit accusing the company of fraudulently billing the U.S. government for oxygen and respiratory care equipment.

The settlement, confirmed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts,  ends a whistleblower lawsuit filed under the False Claims Act by former employees of the respiratory therapy services provider on behalf of the U.S. government. Lincare, is one of the largest U.S. providers of oxygen and respiratory therapy services and equipment, did not admit wrongdoing. Its settlement agreement was released late Monday after the deal received the U.S. Justice Department’s approval.

According to the lawsuit, Lincare  engaged in the following; ” Billing for oxygen equipment after receiving notice that the customer was no longer using the equipment; billing for portable oxygen tanks when the customer did not require them;fabricating evidence to support false claims that customers had ordered refills of oxygen they never requested; improperly waiving customer co-payments and deductible payments to obtain more business; providing oxygen to Medicare beneficiaries without physicians orders; providing kickbacks to physicians offices to influence referrals and failing to return overpayments received from government payors. “

LinCare Complaint

The case began as two separate lawsuits, by Lincare employees SallyJo Robins and Kathleen Dunlap, and  by Germano Lima and Roberto Rabassa, ex-employees in Massachusetts.

The  False Claims Act, allows individual to sue companies on the government’s behalf to recover taxpayer money paid out based on fraudulent claims. If successful, whistleblowers receive a percentage of the recovery.

While the U.S. Justice Department can intervene in such lawsuits, in this case it did not, leaving the ex-employees to pursue it. The department’s approval was required to settle the case.

Under the deal, the U.S. government will receive $9 million. Another $11 million will go to the former Lincare employees to cover their share, plus attorneys’ fees and costs, according to the settlement agreement.

Jeffrey Newman represents whistleblowers but not those in this case.