Thursday, May 4, 2017

Los Angeles Dermatologist Pays $2.6 Million to Resolve False Claim Allegations He Billed Medicare for Unnecessary Mohs Skin Cancer Surgeries

On April 10, 2017,  Dr. Norman A. Brooks, M.D., the owner of The Skin Cancer Medical Center in Los Angeles paid the United States $2,681,400 as part of a settlement to resolve allegations that he submitted bills to Medicare for Mohs micrographic surgeries for skin cancers that were medically unnecessary. In settling the case, Dr. Brooks did not admit liability in the matter.

As part of the settlement, Dr. Brooks and his entity entered into a three-year Integrity Agreement with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General. Under the Integrity Agreement, Dr. Brooks will establish and maintain a compliance program that includes, among other things, mandated training for him and his employees and review procedures for claims submitted to Medicare and Medicaid programs.

The settlement resolves allegations made in a lawsuit filed by Dr. Brooks' former Brooks employee Janet Burke under the qui tam, or “whistleblower,” provisions of the False Claims Act, which permit private parties to sue on behalf of the government and receive a share of any recovery. For her role in the case, Ms. Burke will receive $482,652.
The lawsuit alleged that Brooks falsely diagnosed skin cancer in some of his patients so that he could perform, and bill for, Mohs surgeries. Mohs surgery is a specialized surgical procedure for removing certain types of skin cancers in specific areas of the body, including the face. The surgery is performed in stages during which the surgeon removes a single layer of tissue which undergoes a microscopic evaluation. 

The surgeon performs additional stages, if necessary, until all of the cancer is removed. Given the complexity and time required to perform the procedure, Mohs yields a higher Medicare reimbursement than other procedures used to remove skin lesions.

Dermatology is under greater scrutiny by government billing programs (Medicare, TriCare, etc.) and we have seen an increased rate of audits. A compliance plan is never too late to start and can help prevent whistleblower cases when a practice self-reports or discovers the employee's allegations during employment or at an exit interview.

Posted by Tracy Green, Esq.
Work: 213-233-2260


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