Eye Surgery Provider Settles FCA Kickback Allegations for $12M
By the C|C Whistleblower Lawyer Team
Sightpath Medical, Inc., its parent TLC Vision Corp., and its former CEO James Tiffany have agreed to pay $12 million to resolve allegations, originally brought by a whistleblower, that they defrauded the government by billing it for eye surgery products and services tainted by illegal kickbacks to physicians.
According to the Justice Department’s press release, Sightpath paid kickbacks to physicians in the form of “travel, entertainment and improper consulting agreements. The complaint identifies multiple examples of trips including luxury skiing vacations and high-end fishing, golfing and hunting trips.” The kickbacks were allegedly designed to induce doctors to use Sightpath’s products and services, including those billed to Medicare in violation of the False Claims Act and the Anti-Kickback Statute.
As part of the settlement, Sightpath also entered into a five-year Corporate Integrity Agreement (CIA) with the government. CIAs allow healthcare entities to avoid exclusion from participation in government healthcare programs like Medicare and Medicaid in exchange for the entities’ agreement to obligations outlined in the CIA.
Former employee turned whistleblower Kipp Fesenmaier initiated the lawsuit on the government’s behalf under the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act in 2013. The statute incentivizes reporting fraud to the government by allowing whistleblowers to share the government’s ultimate recovery.