Thursday, September 3, 2015

Kmart Guilty of False Claims Act Violation

KMART Corp. (Kmart), a discount department store chain that operates approximately 780 in-store pharmacies, has paid the United States $1.4 million to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act by using drug manufacturer coupons and gasoline discounts as improper Medicare beneficiary inducements, the Justice Department announced today. 


The settlement resolves allegations that Kmart violated the False Claims Act by providing illegal benefits to beneficiaries of the Medicare program.  The government alleged that from June 2011 to June 2014, Kmart knowingly and improperly influenced the decisions of Medicare beneficiaries to bring their prescriptions to Kmart pharmacies by permitting the Medicare beneficiaries to use drug manufacturer coupons to reduce or eliminate prescription co-pays that they otherwise would be obligated to pay.  Federal law prohibits a person from offering beneficiaries of certain federal health programs, such as Medicare, remuneration that is intended to influence the beneficiary’s choice of provider.  The government alleged that Kmart’s conduct caused the Medicare beneficiaries to seek expensive, brand name drugs in lieu of cheaper generic drugs, which caused the government’s costs to increase without any medical benefit to the beneficiary.  The government also alleged that Kmart improperly encouraged Medicare beneficiaries to bring their prescriptions to Kmart pharmacies by offering them varying levels of discounts on the purchase of gasoline at participating gas stations based on the number of prescriptions that they filled at Kmart pharmacies.


The settlement resolves allegations in a lawsuit filed by Joshua Leighr, a former Kmart pharmacist, under the qui tam, or whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act.  The act authorizes private parties, such as Mr. Leighr, to sue for fraud on behalf of the United States and to share in any recovery.  Mr. Leighr will receive approximately $248,500 of the settlement.   


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