Case tied to cancer doctor fraud settled for $200K

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News

A health care company will pay $200,000 to resolve allegations it paid Farid Fata, the former cancer doctor convicted of Medicare fraud, in exchange for patient referrals, federal officials said.

Vitas Health Corporation Midwest and related entities have agreed to pay the settlement, U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said in a statement Tuesday.

The agency accused the Miami-based company of paying Fata for referrals to its hospice care services.

Last year, federal officials accused Fata of giving chemotherapy to cancer-free patients while also overmedicating others. His operation was part of a wide-reaching health insurance scheme to scam Medicare and Blue Cross/Blue Shield out of about $34 million in insurance payments.

Fata pleaded guilty to health care fraud, conspiracy to pay and receive kickbacks and promotional money laundering. He was sentenced to 45 years in prison

McQuade said her office and the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General investigated allegations that Vitas paid Fata to refer patients to Vitas for hospice care.

She said a Vitas employee’s complaint about Fata prompted the investigation. In her complaint, the employee, Rita Dubois, the company’s Market Development director for Southeastern Michigan, said Vitas contributed nearly $16,000 to the Swan for Life Cancer Foundation, a charity Fata created, between 2012 and 2014.

In exchange, the complaint said, Fata referred 23 patients to Vitas for hospice care.

Dubois will receive $36,000 out of the $200,000 settlement for her role in alerting authorities about the kickbacks.

“Patients deserve to receive referrals based on the quality of the services provided, not based on illegal kickback arrangements between medical providers,” McQuade said. “We are working to root out practices that enrich doctors and medical businesses at the expense and potential safety of patients.”