Rotech whistleblower prevails

Sunday, August 31, 2008

ORLANDO, Fla. - Rotech Healthcare has paid $2 million to settle civil charges that it fraudulently billed Medicare for durable medical equipment. The provider denies any wrongdoing.

The settlement, announced last week, resolves claims filed by former Rotech executive Sheila Bell-Messier in 2004. Bell-Messier claims Rotech failed to disclose billing issues in Texas, Colorado and Louisiana to avoid additional penalties related to a previous settlement. In 2002, Rotech settled federal civil claims related to billing issues in Montana, Georgia, Florida and Kentucky.

Bell-Messier claims she "shut down billing" when she noticed records were not in compliance with federal rules, according to her unsealed qui tam action in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. She says Rotech officials asked her to restart billing, but she refused, saying she "was not going to Medicare prison for Rotech."

Of the total settlement, Bell-Messier will receive 27% or $540,000. Rotech will also pay her legal fees of $1.2 million. The rest of the settlement goes to the government.