Monday, February 11, 2013

Dermatologist To Pay $26 Million Settlement

Florida Physician to Pay $26.1 Million to Resolve False Claims Allegations

VENICE, FL. -- Steven J. Wasserman, M.D., a dermatologist practicing in Venice, Fla., has agreed to pay $26.1 million to resolve allegations that he violated the False Claims Act by accepting illegal kickbacks from a pathology laboratory and by billing the Medicare program for medically unnecessary services, the Justice Department announced today.

The settlement is the largest ever with an individual under the False Claims Act in the Middle District of Florida and one of the largest with an individual under the False Claims Act in U.S. history.

The government alleged that, in or around 1997, Dr. Wasserman entered into an illegal kickback arrangement with Tampa Pathology Laboratory (TPL), a clinical laboratory in Tampa, Fla., and Dr. José SuarezHoyos, a pathologist and the owner of TPL, in an effort to increase the lab’s referral business. 

Under that agreement, Dr. Wasserman allegedly sent biopsy specimens for Medicare beneficiaries to TPL for testing and diagnosis. In return, TPL allegedly provided Dr. Wasserman a diagnosis on a pathology report that included a signature line for Dr. Wasserman to make it appear to Medicare that he had performed the diagnostic work that TPL had performed. 

The government alleged that Dr. Wasserman then billed the Medicare program for TPL’s work, passing it off as his own, for which he received more than $6 million in Medicare payments. In addition, the government asserted that, in furtherance of his agreement with TPL, Dr. Wasserman substantially increased the number of skin biopsies he performed on Medicare patients, thus increasing the referral business for TPL.

The government further alleged that, in addition to his involvement in the alleged kickback scheme, Dr. Wasserman also performed thousands of unnecessary skin surgeries known as adjacent tissue transfers on Medicare beneficiaries. Adjacent tissue transfers are complicated and often time-consuming procedures physicians sometimes use to close a defect resulting from the removal of a growth on a patient’s skin. The government alleged that Dr. Wasserman performed many of these procedures in order to obtain the reimbursement for them, and not because they were medically necessary.

The allegations resolved by today’s settlement were initiated by a lawsuit originally filed in the District Court for the Middle District of Florida by Alan Freedman, M.D., a pathologist who formerly worked at TPL. Dr. Freedman filed the lawsuit under the qui tam, or whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act. Under the False Claims Act, a private party may file suit on behalf of the United States for false claims and share in any recovery. The United States has the right to intervene in the action, which it did in this case, filing its own complaint in October 2010. Dr. Freedman will receive $4,046,000 of today’s settlement.

The United States previously settled with TPL and Dr. SuarezHoyos for $950,000 to resolve the allegations asserted against them in the same lawsuit.

The claims settled by this agreement are allegations only; there has been no determination of liability. The lawsuit is captioned U.S. ex rel. Freedman v. SuarezHoyos et al., No. 04-933 (M.D. Fla.).


  1. Anonymous6:23 AM

    The AMA should recind his license to practice and the Federal Government should not only fine Mr Wasserman but lock him up for 50 years.

  2. Anonymous12:01 PM

    The AMA does not have anything to do with physician licensure, unfortunately. The decision about Dr. Wasserman's license rests with the state of Florida's medical board.

    I agree with you it should take his license away permanently, but state boards have the reputation of being quite soft on physicians (generally speaking-I don't know about Florida's record specifically). It will be interesting to see what Florida does.

  3. Anonymous9:43 AM

    What slime. And he's still endorsed by Venice Regional Hospital. If you go on their site and search for a dermatologist, his smiling face pops right up on their list. I guess they don't care he has been bilking the government - the taxpayers - for countless millions. Why is this dirtbag still in business?

  4. Anonymous5:26 AM

    Sure he has been bilking the government and so have hundreds of others just like him, and nobody does anything about it. Wasserman not only bilked the government but also aledgedly caused a lot of people to think they had bad things going on with their skin. SCARY