Antigravity Effects, LLC (AGE), Results Laboratories LLC (Results), their owner, Mathias Berry, and employee Kate Ross, have agreed to pay the United States $500,000 to resolve False Claims Act allegations that they knowingly billed Medicare for medically unnecessary viscosupplementation injections and medically unnecessary knee braces that were also tainted by illegal kickbacks, the Department of Justice announced today.
Berry has also agreed to an eight-year period of exclusion from participation in federal health care programs, and Ross has agreed to a five-year period of exclusion. Results and AGE are no longer operating.
Viscosupplementation is a treatment therapy for osteoarthritis, in which a doctor injects a gel-like fluid into a patient’s knee joint to act as a lubricant and to supplement the natural properties of joint fluid. AGE licensed branding and business methods for viscosupplementation to chiropractors across the country, which led to the formation of the Osteo Relief Institutes (ORIs). One of those ORIs was based in Minnesota. AGE and Berry received license fees from the ORIs based on their collections. Results acted as a group purchaser for the ORIs to order and purchase medical supplies, including viscosupplements and custom knee braces. Berry owned both companies, and Kate Ross worked for AGE.
The settlement resolves allegations that AGE, Results, Berry, and Ross knowingly caused the ORIs to submit claims to Medicare from 2011 through 2017 for medically unnecessary viscosupplementation and medically unnecessary knee braces that were also tainted by illegal kickbacks. The government alleged that AGE, Results, Berry, and Ross pressured these clinics to administer viscosupplementation injections to patients who did not need them, to use multiple brands of viscosupplements successively on patients without clinical support, and to use discounted viscosupplements reimported from foreign countries.
This settlement also resolves allegations that AGE, Results, Berry, and Ross caused the ORIs to provide unnecessary custom knee braces to patients that were also tainted by illegal kickbacks solicited and received by Results and Berry from Vision Quest, Incorporated (VQ), a knee brace manufacturer located in Irvine, California, in exchange for arranging for the ORIs to purchase the manufacturer’s braces. The United States filed suit against VQ this week, alleging that VQ paid kickbacks to Results in order to sell knee braces to the ORIs.
“Billing Medicare for medically unnecessary procedures and for unnecessary medical devices tainted by kickbacks wastes taxpayer funds and jeopardizes patient health,” said Erica H. MacDonald, U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota. “Today’s settlement demonstrates that we will continue to pursue those who seek to enrich themselves at the expense of both taxpayers and patients.”
“The billing of medically unnecessary services and products as well as paying kickbacks to induce medical practitioners to provide such services and products is illegal,” said Lamont Pugh III, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Office of Inspector General – Chicago Region. “The OIG routinely conducts data analysis in an effort to identify aberrant and potentially fraudulent billing trends and will take action to hold accountable those who seek to defraud federally funded health care programs.”
This settlement is based on the entities’ and individuals’ ability to pay and could total up to $3.875 million, if certain contingencies are triggered.
The allegations resolved by today’s settlement stem from a proactive government investigation based on a critical analysis of Medicare claims data. This effort also led to other previously announced settlements with several former Osteo Relief Institutes and others for their alleged roles in this scheme.
The government’s settlement in this matter illustrates its emphasis on combating health care fraud. One of the most powerful tools in this effort is the False Claims Act. Tips and complaints from all sources about potential fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement, can be reported to the Department of Health and Human Services, at 800-HHS-TIPS (800-447-8477).
The matter was investigated by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Minnesota, the Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch, the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The claims asserted against defendants are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.
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United States Attorney’s Office, District of Minnesota: (612) 664-5600