8 of the biggest whistleblower cases in spine, orthopedics this year

Alan Condon -   Print  |

Here are eight big whistleblower cases in spine and orthopedics in the past three months:

1. The Department of Justice intervened in two whistleblower cases alleging that SpineFrontier illegally paid over $8 million in kickbacks to spine surgeons. In complaints filed under the False Claims Act, the government accuses SpineFrontier, its executives and related entities of paying spine surgeons to use the company's medical devices and disguising those kickbacks as consulting fees for product evaluations.

2. Wilson Asfora, MD, formerly of Sioux Falls, S.D.-based Sanford Health, is seeking to dismiss a whistleblower case filed against him that alleges he violated anti-kickback laws by using medical devices from two companies he owned. In February, lawyers for the neurosurgeon filed a wrongful termination countersuit against the Sioux Falls-based hospital system, claiming the neurosurgeon was a victim of vindictive colleagues.

3. William Choi, MD, is paying the federal government $2.35 million to settle claims that he violated the Anti-Kickback Statute and False Claims Act. Dr. Choi was accused of secretly running two implant distribution companies that sold implants to three Colorado hospitals where he performed spine surgeries. Investigators were alerted to the scheme after a former employee of Dr. Choi's — who will receive a portion of the settlement — filed a whistleblower lawsuit.

4. In February, Bill Moreau, DC, filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the U.S. Olympic Committee, claiming that the organization violated federal law by waiting five days to report the sexual assault of a teenage athlete in 2018. Dr. Moreau, a chiropractor and former vice president of sports medicine for the USOC, claims that he was terminated for challenging the organization's handling of sexual abuse reports and mental health issues.

5. The DOJ filed a lawsuit alleging that Indianapolis-based Community Health Network illegally paid specialists "excessive" salaries in an "aggressive," "defensive" strategy to keep referrals within the system. CHN allegedly employed hundreds of physicians, including ones specializing in orthopedic surgery and neurosurgery, by compensating them well above fair market value using calculations based on referral and utilization patterns. The lawsuit stems from a whistleblower complaint filed under the False Claims Act by Thomas Fischer, who previously served as CHN's CFO.

6. The federal government intervened in a whistleblower lawsuit against Mitias Orthopaedics in New Albany, Miss., which is accused of submitting false claims for knee devices. The practice allegedly billed for a name-brand injectable knee device but actually used a cheaper product from a compound pharmacy.

7. Orthopedic surgeon Ayman Daouk, MD, filed a whistleblower lawsuit against Orlando (Fla.) Health, claiming he was fired for refusing to comply with the system's standards, which allegedly required him to only operate and make referrals within its network. Dr. Daouk claims the alleged self-referral requirements violates the federal Stark Laws and "patients' freedom of choice."

8. In January, Milwaukee-based Agnesian HealthCare and its physician group agreed to pay $10 million to settle a whistleblower suit brought by orthopedic surgeon Clark Searle, MD, who alleged the health system paid kickbacks and other financial incentives for patient referrals.

More articles on orthopedics:
5 orthopedic expansion projects costing $200M+
5 recent telemedicine developments for spine, orthopedics
Dr. Scott Boden: Telemedicine can achieve spine success if 'reimbursement barriers are reduced'

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