Jacksonville clinic agrees to pay $1.2 million to settle fraud suit

By Garrett Pelican - Digital executive producer

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A Jacksonville-based pain management clinic has agreed to pay $1.2 million to head off a federal whistleblower lawsuit over claims that it billed the government for unnecessary drug tests, the U.S. Attorney's Office announced Friday.

The settlement resolves allegations that Riverside Spine & Pain Physicians, LLC, violated the False Claims Act by routinely billing Medicare for thorough and expensive drug tests, whether patients' track records indicated they needed them or not.

"A primary mission of the United States Attorney's Office is protecting Medicare, TRICARE, and other federal health care programs from fraud. Our civil division works tirelessly in the pursuit of providers who perform tests indiscriminately and regardless of patient need," said U.S. Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez.

The agreement bookends a whistleblower lawsuit filed by Dr. Carissa Stone, a former employee of the clinic. As a result of her cooperation, Stone will receive $240,000 of the proceeds, or roughly a fifth of the total settlement.

Those with suspicions about potential fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement of federal health care funding are encouraged to come forward and report their claims to the Department of Health and Human Services by dialing 1-800-447-8477.

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