The Department of Justice announced that Dr. Steven Chun and his pain management clinic, Sarasota Pain Associates, have agreed to settle allegations made by two whistleblowers in a qui tam lawsuit that they violated the False Claims Act. The whistleblowers, Cathia Gavin and Penelope Thomas, are both nurses and former employees of Dr. Chun and Sarasota Pain Associates. Gavin was employed at Sarasota Pain Associates from May 2006 through 2010. Thomas was employed at the pain management clinic from May 2006 to January 2010.
Dr. Chun first operated Sarasota Pain Associates in Sarasota then moved the pain management clinic to Bradenton. According to its website, Sarasota Pain Associates performs the following procedures, among others: spinal cord stimulation, disc decompression, epidural injection, various kinds of nerve block injections, facet injection, neuroplasty, and Botox injections.
The whistleblowers filed a qui tam complaint in 2011 alleging that Dr. Chun and Sarasota Pain Associates violated that Florida and federal False Claims Act by submitting claims to government health care programs including Medicare, Medicaid and TRICARE for procedures and examinations that were not either not performed or were not performed by a physician. The government specifically alleged that beginning in 2006, Dr. Chun billed Medicare for comprehensive examinations at a higher level and rate than was actually performed. The whistleblowers also alleged that Dr. Chun submitted claims to government health care programs for procedures that were not medically necessary or had not been performed. The complaint contained additional allegations that refills of implantable infusion pumps were billed as if performed by a physician when they were actually performed by a nurse.
Dr. Chun and Sarasota Pain Associates have agreed to settle the allegations by the government and the whistleblowers in the qui tam complaint. In addition to payment of $750,000 to the government, Dr. Chun and Sarasota Pain Associates have entered into an Integrity Agreement with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General. The Agreement requires Dr. Chun to attend training courses and to arrange for an independent external review of his billing and coding processes.
The whistleblowers, Gavin and Thomas, will be entitled to share in a percentage of the settlement proceeds as their reward in accordance with the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act.
For additional information on qui tam cases, click here.