Ross Products fraud investigation spreads to providers

Sunday, September 21, 2003

September 22, 2003

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Investigators want to know whether Ohio customers of Columbus-based Ross Products filed fraudulent Medicaid claims for enteral feeding pumps, according to the Associated Press.

Ross’s parent company, Abbott Labs, agreed in July to pay as much as $622 million to resolve allegations that the company helped HME providers and other enteral nutrition suppliers bilk the Medicare program.

John Guthrie, head of the attorney general's health-care fraud section,

said customers, including nursing homes and medical equipment suppliers that sought improper reimbursement, also should be punished.

"Ross was the one that initiated this, but the nursing homes and supply companies that actually submitted the bills have culpability as well,"he said.

Guthrie said investigations are expected in other states and other companies that make similar products also face scrutiny.

At issue is a marketing practice in which Abbott subsidiary, Ross Products, would provider suppliers with free feeding pumps but support provider efforts to bill Medicare and Medicaid for those pumps. The government declined to accept Abbott’s claim that the pumps weren’t free because providers later paid for the pumps when they purchased plastic tubing sets and enteral nutrition formula from Ross.

As part of its agreement with the government, Ross, which claims a 50% share of enteral nutrition business in the United States, will change the way it markets pumps, sets and formula to suppliers.

“Customers will be billed separately for the pumps and pump sets, instead of paying for them together at one price,"said Melissa Brotz, an Abbott spokesperson. “The pumps will be billed, the sets will be billed, and invoices will be given in that manner."