An Encino dermatologist paid almost $2.7 million to the government to resolve “whistleblower” allegations that he submitted bills to Medicare for surgeries that were medically unnecessary, federal prosecutors announced today.
Dr. Norman A. Brooks, owner of the Skin Cancer Medical Center, paid the
settlement on April 10 without admitting liability, according to the U.S.
The payment resolved allegations in a “whistleblower” lawsuit brought
by a former employee of Brooks’ clinic. The settlement was announced after U.S.
District Judge Philip S. Gutierrez unsealed and dismissed the complaint thatwas filed under the False Claims Act.
The suit alleged that Brooks falsely diagnosed skin cancer in some of his patients so that he could perform, and bill for, Mohs surgeries.
The specialized procedure is used for removing certain types of skin cancers in specific areas of the body, including the face.
The surgery is performed in stages during which the surgeon removes a single layer of tissue which undergoes a microscopic evaluation. The surgeon performs additional stages, if necessary, until all of the cancer is removed.
Given the complexity and time required to perform the procedure, Mohs yields a higher Medicare reimbursement than other procedures used to remove skin lesions.
As part of the settlement, Brooks entered into a three-year Integrity Agreement with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Under the agreement, Brooks will establish and maintain a compliance program that includes, among other things, mandated training for the doctor and his employees and review procedures for claims submitted to Medicare and Medicaid programs.
The lawsuit was filed by former Brooks employee Janet Burke under the qui tam — or “whistleblower” — provisions of the False Claims Act, which permit private parties to sue on behalf of the government and receive a share of any recovery.
For her role in the case, Burke will receive nearly $482,500, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.