published Friday, May 4th, 2012

Erlanger whistle-blower lawsuit will not bring prosecution

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State and federal prosecutors have declined to pursue a whistle-blower lawsuit that says Erlanger Health System made false Medicare claims, a second such decision within the last month.

The lawsuit was filed in March 2011 by Robert Whipple, who worked as an auditing consultant for Affiliated Computer Services Inc., at the hospital in 2006. The suit alleges that Erlanger used fraudulent billing practices in categorizing patients and for certain procedures.

The lawsuit was sealed while state and federal attorneys investigated, but both parties declined to intervene in the case, filing paperwork to that effect Monday.

"Erlanger is confident in our billing procedures and compliance programs," said Erlanger interim CEO Charlesetta Woodard-Thompson in an emailed statement Thursday. "Erlanger takes all legal matters and allegations of this sort very seriously, and has worked very closely with government officials throughout their investigation."

In April, prosecutors declined to pursue another whisteblower case, filed by Lisa K. Stratienko in 2010. However Stratienko has 120 days to pursue the case.

In his 46-page lawsuit, Whipple asserted several employees at the hospital did not take action when he pointed out the improper billing practices.

Whipple's lawyer, Cynthia Cutler, could not be reach for comment.

The hospital's attorney, Brian Roark, declined to comment.

about Mariann Martin...

Mariann Martin covers healthcare in Chattanooga and the surrounding region. She joined the Times Free Press in February 2011, after covering crime and courts for the Jackson (Tenn.) Sun for two years. Mariann was born in Indiana, but grew up in Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Belize. She graduated from Union University in 2005 with degrees in English and history and has master’s degrees in international relations and history from the University of Toronto. While attending Union, ...

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