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Wisconsin company to pay $10 million in whistleblower case

On Behalf of | Feb 7, 2020 | Whistleblowing |

Agnesian Healthcare, a medical giant in the Fond du Lac region of Wisconsin, has reached an agreement that will send a combined $10 million to the Federal and Wisconsin state governments. The agreed-upon settlement comes upon the heels of a whistleblower suit dating back to 2014.

The lawsuit, filed by Dr. Clark Searle, a former orthopedic surgeon, and member of the clinic’s board of directors, contended that Agnesian was embezzling government-funded healthcare programs. The suit claimed the hospital was providing monetary incentives to doctors who increased patient intake by way of Medicare and Medicaid patient referrals.

Dr. Searle repeatedly tried to reverse the hospital’s actions, but repeatedly was unsuccessful which led to the 2014 filed lawsuit.

Speaking through a press release obtained by The Fond du Lac Reporter, Dr. Searle stated his gratitude that the issue was finalized. “I loved my patients and practice in Fond du Lac, and chose to pursue this lawsuit of concerns for their interests.”

The lawsuit stated that a number of laws were violated by Agnesian and its physician board, including:

  • The Stark Law
  • The Anti-Kickback Statute
  • The federal False Claims Act; and
  • The (now repealed) Wisconsin False Claims for Medical Assistance Law

Agnesian displayed the physician’s financial incentives as “adjustments” to their income. The kickbacks were dependent on the number of referrals to Agnesian, and its network or doctors. These deferred payments were linked to an agreement that included statues limiting the ability of any physician who left Agnesian to refer patients to competing hospitals.