The Justice Department announced the largest settlement with an individual in the Middle District of Florida under the False Claims Act. Steven J. Wasserman, M.D., a Venice dermatologist, has agreed to pay $26.1 million to settle charges that he accepted illegal kickbacks and performed skin surgeries on Medicare patients that were not medically necessary.
According to the Justice Department, in approximately 1997, Wasserman entered into an illegal kickback arrangement with Tampa Pathology Laboratory (“TPL”) and its owner Dr. Jose Suarez Hoyos. The allegations first came to light when former TPL pathologist Alan Freeman, M.D. filed a whistleblower complaint under the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act.
According to the whistleblower, Wasserman had an arrangement with TPL to send biopsies to TPL for testing and diagnosis in exchange for TPL including a signature line on the pathology reports where Wasserman would sign. This was supposedly done to make it appear to Medicare that Wasserman had done the diagnostic work, when in fact it was done by TPL. The Justice Department claimed that Wasserman then billed Medicare for work that TPL had done. The government alleged that Wasserman received Medicare payments totaling more than $6 million for procedures he claimed to have done, but were actually performed by TPL. In addition, Wasserman allegedly performed a substantial number of unnecessary skin biopsies to increase the referrals to TPL.
Of the $26.1 million settlement amount, the whistleblower will receive approximately $4.04 million as his reward under the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act.