DaVita to pay $450M to settle Atlanta whistleblower lawsuit

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DENVER (AP) — DaVita HealthCare Partners agreed Monday to pay $450 million to settle a lawsuit claiming the company defrauded the federal Medicare program out of millions of dollars.

The lawsuit filed in Atlanta in 2011 involves a claim by Dr. Alon Vainer and nurse Daniel Barbir, who worked for Denver-based DaVita. It claimed the kidney dialysis company threw away good medicine and billed Medicare and Medicaid for millions of dollars in reimbursement between 2003 and 2010, according to The Denver Post (http://goo.gl/dK800Z ).

DaVita was willing to fight the case but announced April 15 its planned to settle.

"Although we believe strongly in the merits of our case, we decided it was in our stakeholders' best interests to resolve it," Kim Rivera, DaVita's chief legal officer, said Monday. "The potential mandatory penalties for being found in the wrong in even a small percentage of instances were simply too large."

In addition to the settlement, DaVita has set aside $45 million in case it has to pay attorney fees or other costs.

Lin Wood, the Atlanta-based attorney for the plaintiffs, could not be reached for comment.

Since the case was filed, DaVita has settled two other whistleblower lawsuits.

In 2012, the company agreed to pay $55 million to the federal government and others over claims that it medically overused and double-billed the government for Epogen, an anemia drug. That lawsuit was filed by Ivey Woodard, a former employee of Epogen-maker Amgen, in 2002.

In October, DaVita paid $389 million to settle investigations into whether the company offered kickbacks to Denver kidney doctors for patient referrals. David Barbetta, a DaVita senior financial analyst, filed the lawsuit in 2009.

DaVita operates about 2,100 dialysis clinics and has entered into about 300 ventures with doctors. The company treats about 170,000 patients in the United States at outpatient dialysis centers.


Information from: The Denver Post, http://www.denverpost.com

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