Minnesota-based Skin Care Doctors (SCD) has agreed to pay $850,000 to resolve allegations of false Medicare billings and unnecessary surgical procedures. The alleged misconduct was brought to light in a whistleblower lawsuit filed by a dermatologist who had previously worked under Skin Care's CEO, Michael J. Ebertz.
According to the False Claims Act lawsuit filed by whistleblower Dr. Jeff Samuelson, Dr. Ebertz, who is also a dermatologist, knowingly treated benign lesions as if they were pre-cancerous, routinely billing Medicare for unnecessary procedures.
he complaint also states that Ebertz overbilled Medicare for his patients' visits and encouraged other Skin Care doctors to do the same. Samuelson was co-owner of the company at the time, but he was invited to leave after he spoke out about the alleged misconduct. Dr Samuelson currently practices in California.
Both Dr. Ebertz and his company were defendants in the case. The government decided to intervene after a preliminary investigation.
Under the terms of the settlement, Dr Ebertz has made no admission of guilt, but he will pay the whistleblower’s attorney fees and has also agreed to stop making the type of disputed billings mentioned in the complaint.
Dr. Samuelson will receive a whistleblower reward of $153,000. Under the False Claims Act (FCA), whistleblowers can file a lawsuit on behalf of taxpayers to receive a share of the proceeds. FCA whistleblower awards amount to 15-30% of the total recoveries.
“This settlement is an important statement about the proper conduct of medicine,” a spokesperson for Dr. Samuelson has commented, “When people visit a clinic such as SCD, they must be treated based on sound medical judgment — not based on how much money they can generate for a doctor’s bank account.”
According to a spokesperson for the defendants in seemingly boilerplate settlement language, "This settlement agreement allows Skin Care Doctors and Dr. Ebertz to focus on continuing to care for their patients and avoid the uncertainty and cost of litigation. Skin Care Doctors and Dr. Ebertz have cooperated with the government throughout the course of its investigation and have agreed to resolve this matter without any admission of liability.”
The spokesperson for Dr. Samuelson emphasized the dermatologist’s ethics and courage, saying that he defied his boss to expose the wrongdoing and lost his position at SCD as a result, “He could have kept quiet and moved on, but instead he stood up for taxpayers and future SCD patients... He’s a model of medical ethics and a beacon for doctors and other medical professionals who witness wrongdoing by their colleagues,” the source commented.
Are you a healthcare professional with information on medical practices upcoding or billing Medicare or Medicaid for unnecessary procedures? Our healthcare whistleblower reporters could use your tip for upcoming stories. We can keep your name confidential. Email us