- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 4, 2002

Eckerd Corp., a national retail pharmacy chain, will pay the United States $5.88 million to resolve claims that the company overcharged the government for prescriptions, the Justice Department said yesterday.
According to a complaint filed in Florida, Eckerd dispensed partial or "short" prescriptions due to insufficient stock, but billed Medicaid, the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program and TRICARE the military health care program for the full quantities prescribed for beneficiaries of the government health insurance programs.
A former pharmacist for the chain, identified as Louis H. Mueller, filed a civil complaint against Eckerd on behalf of the United States under the whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act (FCA). Under FCA provisions, which allow a whistleblower to share in the government's recovery, Mr. Mueller will receive $880,012.
"This case demonstrates the United States' continuing commitment to protect the federal health care system from fraud," said Assistant Attorney General Robert D. McCallum Jr., who heads the department's Civil Division.
"The government will not tolerate health care providers who bill for services or products that were not provided to beneficiaries." Mr. McCallum said.
Justice Department officials said the civil complaint was investigated by department lawyers, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the middle district of Florida, the Florida Attorney General's Office, the FBI, the National Association of Medicaid Fraud Control Units, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service and the Office of the Inspector General for the Office of Personnel Management.
"Customers should get what they pay for and the government will vigorously investigate and prosecute those who short-change citizens," said U.S. Attorney Paul I. Perez in Tampa, Fla.
In addition to the FCA settlement, Eckerd entered into a Corporate Integrity Agreement that addresses the company's prescription-billing procedures and other compliance-related issues with the Office of Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services.
Eckerd has also agreed to pay $3.13 million to 18 states including Maryland and Virginia to settle existing claims.
The pharmacy chain resolved a related criminal investigation in July 2001 and paid a fine of $1.7 million.


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