According to the Department of Justice, a Florida doctor was intentionally
misdiagnosing patients with serious illnesses, just so he could make money
for treating them. Now, according to a DOJ press release,
Government Settles False Claims Act Allegations Against Florida-Based Baptist
Health System for $2.5 Million, the hospital where Dr. Sean Orr worked is settling claims that it tried
to cover up what Dr. Orr had done.
According to a
Medicare False Claims Act lawsuit brought by a whistleblower, Dr. Sean Orr was not just misdiagnosing patients
with ordinary illnesses; he was telling them they had potentially life-changing
conditions, like multiple sclerosis and brain lesions. And Dr. Orr was
not just an ordinary doctor; he was the chief doctor of the Baptist Medical
Center in Jacksonville, Fla., and he had been the team neurologist for
the Jacksonville Jaguars pro football team. When the hospital found out
what Dr. Orr had done, it put Dr. Orr on administrative leave, but it
did not tell the patients or the Government that the patients had been
misdiagnosed. (Fla. Hospital Accused of Medicare False Billing Cover-Up, Law360).
I’m an attorney who represents whistleblowers, and I have seen a
lot of brave people committed to stopping fraud against the Government.
Ms. Verchetta Wells, the whistleblower who filed the FCA lawsuit in this
case, is someone very special. My friends and fellow whistleblower lawyers
Rolando Marquez and Kirk Chapman of Milberg LLP represented Ms. Wells,
who had worked as a referral coordinator for Orr’s practice.
I do not know Ms. Wells, but I know enough to admire her. Sure, this case
was about unnecessarily billing medical services to Medicare, Medicaid,
TRICARE, and the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program. Fraud in our
medical system is enormously costly, and affects everyone’s ability
to get medical services. But this case is about much more than Medicare
fraud; it is about patients who had their lives upended and who went through
invasive medical treatments and took prescription drugs with serious side
effects, apparently for diseases they never had.
According to Ms. Wells, Dr. Orr changed patient records so that it would
look like the patients needed more tests or treatments, and he pressured
staff members to do the same thing. When the hospital found out what Dr.
Orr had been doing, it sort of, kind of, started to do the right thing.
It evaluated the patient files and figured out which patients had been
misdiagnosed and were receiving unnecessary treatments. But according
to the allegations, instead of telling the patients the truth about what
had happened, the hospital scheduled re-evaluations for those patients
and tried to hide what had happened. I wonder whether some of Baptist
Health’s patients even now do not realize that they were misdiagnosed
and over-diagnosed. Are there any patients out there who are still taking
medications they don’t need and receiving treatments for non-existent
illnesses? If so, hopefully the publicity from this lawsuit will reach them.
For her work in coming forward with the facts and filing the lawsuit, the
Government is going to pay Ms. Wells $424,155.
Under the False Claims Act, Ms. Wells was entitled to receive between 15%
and 25% of what the Government received. I was really surprised to see
that the Government gave her only 17%; what she did had enormous value
to our society, not to mention to taxpayers’ pocketbooks.