21st Century Oncology settles whistle-blower lawsuit

FORT MYERS, Fla. – A cancer-care giant settled a lawsuit filed on behalf of the United States after a whistle-blower came forward about alleged malpractice.

21st Century Oncology was accused of billing Medicare patients for procedures that were not medically needed in a lawsuit that involved the United States government through the False Claims Act. 21st Century has been ordered to pay $34,695,243 in settlement fees to the United States.

Whistle-blower and former physicist in South Florida, Dr. Joseph Ting, was also awarded $7 million from the settlement.

Ting said 21st Century Oncology bought his previous employer, South Florida Radiation Oncology, in 2014 then immediately began running a radiation procedure called GAMMA.

“Basically 21st Century said you will run this procedure on every patient no matter what, regardless of what the patients know, whether they want it, or whether it actually does anything or whether a doctor has even affirmatively approved it,” said David Scher of the Employment Law Group.

The GAMMA tests were not necessary or valuable to most patients, Ting said. Many times the procedures were not ordered by physician as required, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Then 21st Century would bill Medicare, Ting said. He brought his concerns to management but was ignored — that prompted his whistle-blower lawsuit, he said.

“I have grandchildren and so on. If each one of us don’t take the responsibility to the protect the funding of the Medicare, you’ll run out,” he said.

21st Century has billed Medicare nearly $75 million for GAMMA tests over the last several years, a source said. The company made profits a larger priority than its patients, Ting said.

“They have a notorious reputation of finance first, and everything else second,” he said.

21st Century said in a written statement that they agreed to the settlement “with no admission of wrongdoing” and that “there was no harm to any patient related to this dispute,” which it claims had nothing to do with patient harm.

The Fort Myers cancer-care giant previously paid $19.75 million to settle federal allegations of billing Medicare and Tricare for expensive and unnecessary medical tests in December 2015.

It was also the target of a cyber breach.

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