German dialysis giant Fresenius Medical Care, whose kidney care branch is based in Franklin, is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for health care fraud and is allegedly not complying with subpoena requests.
The Office of the Inspector General of HHS is investigating the company — which had revenues of $19 billion last year — for fraud and abuse by allegedly billing federal health care programs for medications customers didn’t order or want, providing kickbacks in the form of waived co-payments and improperly refilling prescriptions.
In court filings this week, the federal government said the corporation is evading its responsibility to fully comply with subpoenas seeking information on Fresenius’ co-payment waivers, returned medication and auto refills. Of the three different responses already provided to the government by Fresenius, all contained “the same egregious deficiencies,” federal officials say, setting back their investigation by 15 months:
Summary enforcement of the Subpoenas here is necessary, because Fresenius has significantly, unjustifiably, and prejudicially delayed HHS-OIG’s investigation by blatantly disregarding basic privilege log requirements. Fresenius’ repeated refusal to produce an adequate privilege log reflects bad faith given that it just recently spent years litigating — and ultimately losing — disputes over the same types of deficiencies that remain in its third privilege log. Even though Fresenius had three chances to provide an adequate privilege log, its third bite at the apple remains inadequate. The egregious and continuing deficiencies remaining in Fresenius’ third privilege log warrant a finding that Fresenius has waived the privileges asserted there.
Fresenius officials did not return calls from the Post for comment.
This isn’t the company’s first run-in with federal prosecutors. Last year, Fresenius paid $5 million to resolve Medicare over-billing for hepatitis B tests and $231 million for international misconduct allegations by the SEC. And in 2018, the company paid $3.5 million to HHS to settle HIPAA violations.
In October, the company shut down a medical billing facility in Ohio, laying off nearly 60 employees.
In 2011, Fresenius was ordered to pay $82.6 million to the federal government in a whistleblower lawsuit against Renal Care Group, a Nashville-based company the group bought in 2005 for $3.5 billion. That case centered on over-billing for home dialysis services and equipment.
Interestingly enough, the current federal investigation does not seem to be affecting Fresenius’ relationship with the Trump Administration. Last October, HHS Secretary Alex Azar praised the company’s work in implementing the administration’s kidney health initiative, as reported by Politico.