U.S. District Court Judge Clay Land has denied a motion made by Dr. Jack Tidwell to dismiss a federal whistle-blower lawsuit against him and others.
A lawsuit filed by Richard Barker, a top administrator at the John B. Amos Cancer Center, names the center itself and its medical staff, including the renowned Dr. Andrew Pippas, accusing them of repeatedly and knowingly overbilling federal health insurers.
A claim amended to the lawsuit names Tidwell, accusing him and Columbus Regional of improprieties concerning the institution’s purchase of the former Tidwell Cancer Treatment Center and billing of Medicare and Medicaid patients.
Land’s ruling applies only to the claims against Tidwell.
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Barker’s lawsuit alleges, among other things, that Tidwell submitted claims to Medicare and Medicaid for radiation therapy that he did not perform. It also alleges that the sale of his former business for $10.5 million “was not a good faith commercially reasonable transaction for fair market value.” Instead, the suit alleges, the high price tag was in fact “to obtain referrals from (Tidwell) during the two-year period following he purchase.”
If true, that would violate the Stark Law, which prohibits physicians from referring Medicare patients to an entity with which the physician has a financial relationship.
In denying Tidwell’s motion, Land added, “The court hastens to add, however, that its ruling today does not suggest that Plaintiff’s allegations are true or even that Plaintiff will ultimately be able to prove them. The law requires the Court at this stage to accept those factual allegations as true.”
Barker’s attorney, Jamie Bennett of the law firm of Ashcraft & Gerel, said she and her client consider the ruling good news.
“Obviously we’re pleased with the ruling, particularly in light of Judge Land’s quick ruling,” Bennett said from her Landover, Md., office. “This will allow the case to move forward rapidly and we’re looking forward to an early opportunity to prove the allegations in the related complaint.”
Tidwell’s attorney, Tom Bever of Atlanta, could not be reached for comment.
Barker is suing the various entities on behalf of the federal government. Should he prevail, he could collect 20-30 percent of any funds recovered by the government. The financial impact of the suit could top $100 million, Bennett said.
Barker has been employed as the top administrator of the John B. Amos Cancer Center since September 26, 2011. Before coming to Columbus, he was compliance officer for Cancer Care Partners in Mishawaka, Ind.
Barker was placed on administrative leave from the John B. Amos Cancer Center in June, his attorney said.