FORT MYERS, FL. -- 21st Century Oncology Inc., the nation’s largest physician led integrated cancer care provider and its wholly owned subsidiary South Florida Radiation Oncology LLC, have agreed to settle allegations that they performed and billed for procedures that were not medically necessary. 21st Century is headquartered in Fort Myers, Florida, and has offices in 16 states.
The settlement relates to defendants use of a medical procedure – called the Gamma function – to measure the exit dose of radiation from a patient after receiving radiation treatment. The United States alleged that the defendants knowingly and improperly billed for this procedure under circumstances where the procedure served no medically appropriate purpose. For example, the government alleged that the procedure was performed by physicians and physicists at 21st Century Oncology locations who were not properly trained to interpret and utilize the Gamma function results. The government also alleged that the defendants billed for this procedure when no physician reviewed the Gamma function results until seven or more days after the last day patients received radiation treatment therapy. Finally, the government alleged that the defendants billed for the procedure when no Gamma result was available due to technical failures in the imaging equipment.
This lawsuit was originally filed under the qui tam or whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act by Joseph Ting, a former physicist at South Florida Radiation Oncology. Under those provisions, a private party, known as a relator, can file an action on behalf of the United States and receive a portion of the recovery. Ting will receive more than $7 million.
“The waste of health care program dollars will not be tolerated,” said Special Agent in Charge Shimon R. Richmond for the Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the Inspector General. “Providers at 21st Century Oncology have agreed to settle claims that in some instances they performed tests that were not only medically unnecessary, but that no one had been trained to properly interpret, thereby allegedly causing the taxpayers to pay for useless tests.”
This past December, 21st Century Oncology LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of 21st Century Oncology Inc., paid $19.75 million to settle allegations that it violated the False Claims Act by billing for medically unnecessary laboratory urine tests and for encouraging physicians to order these tests by offering bonuses based in part on the number of tests the physicians referred to its laboratory.
The lawsuit against the defendants was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida and is captioned United States ex rel. Ting v. 21st Century Oncology and South Florida Radiation Oncology.