- November 24, 2021
FORT MYERS — To resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act, Eye Centers of Florida has agreed to pay a penalty of $525,000 to the United States. The agreement settles charges that the ophthalmology practice knowingly falsified medical records in order to bill for cataract surgeries on patients that would not have otherwise qualified for the surgery. The settlement was announced by United States Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez.
Founded in 1971, Eye Centers of Florida has 11 offices in Southwest Florida, with the main clinic in Fort Myers. It is owned by Dr. David Brown.
The United States had alleged that from Jan. 1, 2012, through March 1, 2014, employees of Eye Centers of Florida falsified the medical records of certain Medicare Advantica patients referred to Brown for a cataract surgery evaluation to make it appear that the patients had a worse visual acuity score than they had actually received. The United States contended that as a result of these practices, Eye Centers of Florida was able to bill for cataract surgeries for patients that would not have otherwise qualified under Medicare guidelines.
The settlement concludes a lawsuit first filed in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida by two former employees of Eye Centers of Florida, Patti Nilsson and Joann Smith. They sued under the whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act permitting a private citizen to sue on behalf of the United States for false claims and to share in the recovery.
The Act also allows the United States to intervene and prosecute the action. Nilsson and Smith will receive $115,500 of the proceeds from the settlement with Eye Centers of Florida. The claims resolved by the settlement are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.
The investigation was coordinated by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kyle Cohen and David Sullivan, with assistance from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General and the FBI.