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Justice Department joins whistleblower suits against high-billing Florida cardiologist

Lawsuits allege physician billed for procedures that weren't necessary, waived co-payments to lure patients

One of the highest-billing doctors in the Medicare program is implicated in two whistleblower lawsuits that allege he billed for unnecessary services and provided kickback to patients. This week, the Justice Department joined those lawsuits, according to a Department of Justice release.

Medicare data released in April shows that Asad Qamar, based in Ocala, Florida, billed Medicare $18 million in 2012, placing him second among all physicians nationwide, FierceHealthFinance previously reported. The amount was four times as much as the next cardiologist on the list. Two whistleblower lawsuits against Qamar allege that he regularly billed for procedures and tests that were medically unnecessary and provided kickbacks to patients by waiving Medicare copayments.

One suit was filed by an unnamed whistleblower, while the other was filed by Holy Tayler, a management consultant for Qamar who alleges fraudulent claims were submitted between 2008 and 2011, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The Justice Department's decision to join the lawsuit "illustrates the government's emphasis on combating healthcare fraud," according to the release, and indicates the government will continue targeting high-billing doctors suspected of fraud. In December, the Department of Health and Human Services announced it had collected $5.6 billion in false claims settlements in 2014, $2.3 billion of which involved federal healthcare programs. 

"Physicians should make medical decisions on the basis of their patients' needs," U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida A. Lee Bentley III said in the release. "Performing medically unnecessary procedures solely to line a physician's pockets strains our nation's healthcare system, and can also jeopardize the health and safety of patients. Fighting Medicare and other healthcare fraud is one of our office's most important priorities."

For more:
- see the DOJ release
- here's the Wall Street Journal article

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