Apria agrees to pay $17.6 million to settle with feds

Sunday, August 14, 2005

LAKE FOREST, Calif. -- Apria avoided a potential $9 billion penalty when it agreed to a preliminary agreement last week to pay the U.S. government $17.6 million to settle two whistleblower lawsuits.

The settlement, together with legal fees and other related costs, will total $20 million, the company stated in a release. That's much less -- to say the least -- than the $9 billion extrapolated penalty, based on 300 claims, the feds said the company could be liable for in 2001.

Under the settlement, which will take several months to hammer into its final form, Apria will admit no wrong doing. The company has acknowledged that there may have been errors and omissions in its supporting documentation between 1995-1998, but considered the $9 billion penalty excessive.

In commenting on the preliminary agreement, Lawrence M. Higby, Apria's Chief Executive Officer, said, "We are pleased that we have been able to reach an acceptable compromise with the government concerning our billing documentation and record keeping during the period following the merger that created Apria ten years ago."

"As we have grown, Apria has further enhanced its industry-leading commitment to compliance with applicable laws and regulations by increasing the resources we commit to our formal compliance programs," Mr. Higby added. "This includes extensive training, internal audits and other steps taken to ensure that our compliance program meets the expectations of our patients, customers, auditors and government officials. As a result, we believe that our compliance program today is the best in the industry."