Lincare pays $10 million to settle kickback charges

Sunday, May 21, 2006

CLEARWATER, Fla. - Lincare agreed last week to pay a $10 million penalty to settle charges that it allegedly gave kickbacks to doctors--including fishing trips and rounds of golf--in exchange for referrals. The civil monetary settlement is the largest ever for the Office of Inspector General (OIG).

In all, Lincare agreed to pay $12 million to the OIG and U.S. Department of Justice to settle ongoing investigations. The company paid the penalties without admitting to any wrongdoing.

The first investigation allegedly occurred in Florida between January 1993 and December 2000. The remaining three investigations allegedly occurred between January 1995 and March 2004 in Massachusetts, Tennessee and Idaho.

OIG alleged that Lincare engaged in a nationwide scheme to pay physicians kickbacks to refer their patients to Lincare. According to the OIG: Lincare gave referring physicians items such as sporting and entertainment tickets, gift certificates, rounds of golf, golf equipment, fishing trips, meals, advertising expenses, office equipment, and medical equipment. The illegal kickbacks also came disguised as payments for purported consulting agreements, such as medical director agreements.
"This significant settlement is an important example of OIG's continuing effort to eliminate illegal kickback practices and violations of the Self-Referral Law," said Inspector General Daniel R. Levinson. "OIG will continue to pursue aggressively those who undermine the integrity of the Medicare program."
Lincare CEO John Byrnes stated in a press release: "We are pleased to have resolved these matters with the government. Lincare fully cooperated with the government during the course of the inquiries. Our board of directors believes that it was in the best interests of the company to put these matters behind us."