Settlement: 'sad news' for industry

Friday, June 30, 2006

CLEARWATER, Fla. - When Lincare announced in mid-May that it had written a $10 million check to settle fraud charges, it was "sad news" for the industry, some providers said.
With the industry stepping up efforts to roll back a 36-month cap on Medicare oxygen reimbursement, the last thing it needed was for one of the largest respiratory providers to be shrouded in charges of alleged kickbacks to physicians, they say.
"My initial reaction was, 'Not now,'" said one provider. "We don't need this, not when we're trying to convince legislators to restore oxygen reimbursement."
Lincare didn't admit any wrongdoing as part of its settlement with the Office of Inspector General (OIG). Just the same, several providers likened Lincare's announcement to a "black eye" on an already reeling industry.
"Here we are, contacting our legislators, telling them the harm that the oxygen cap will do, and this happens," said one provider. "It's disappointing."
Another provider, however, downplayed the significance of Lincare's announcement.
"It's true that legislators may look at Lincare and think, 'They make too much money, and as long as they're making too much money, we can make cuts,'" the provider said. "But Lincare's an anomaly. If you're engaged with your legislators, they know most providers aren't 80% Medicare, they're 40%. They know they don't have the same business mix."