Washington, DC - Rite Aid Corporation, a Delaware corporation and national retail drugstore chain with its principal place of business in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, has paid the United States $2.99 million to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act by inappropriately using gift cards as inducements, the Department of Justice announced today.
The settlement resolves allegations that Rite Aid offered illegal inducements to Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries to transfer their prescriptions to Rite Aid pharmacies. The government alleged that from 2008 to 2010, Rite Aid had knowingly and improperly influenced the decisions of Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries to transfer their prescriptions to Rite Aid pharmacies by offering them gift cards in exchange for their business.
“This case demonstrates the government's ongoing commitment to enforcing accountability, transparency and fairness in the retail pharmacy industry,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Joyce R. Branda for the Civil Division. “The government will continue to advocate for the best interests of Medicare and Medicaid patients, and prevent pharmacies from improperly manipulating their healthcare choices.”
“This settlement holds Rite Aid accountable for exerting undue influence on individuals when they make important healthcare decisions about where and when to fill prescriptions,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Stephanie Yonekura for the Central District of California. “Corporate profit should never steer an individual away from making the right healthcare decision.”
“Pharmacies are not allowed to improperly influence the decision-making of Medicare and Medicaid patients about where to fill prescriptions,” said Special Agent in Charge Glenn R. Ferry for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG). “Pharmacy chains that manipulate patient choices in this way will be held accountable.”
The settlement resolves allegations filed by Jack Chin under the qui tam, or whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act, which authorizes private parties to sue for fraud on behalf of the United States and share in the recovery. Chin will receive approximately $508,300 of the settlement.
This settlement illustrates the government’s emphasis on combating health care fraud and marks another achievement for the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) initiative, which was announced in May 2009 by the Attorney General and the Secretary of Health and Human Services. The partnership between the two departments has focused efforts to reduce and prevent Medicare and Medicaid financial fraud through enhanced cooperation. One of the most powerful tools in this effort is the False Claims Act. Since January 2009, the Justice Department has recovered a total of more than $23.2 billion through False Claims Act cases, with more than $14.9 billion of that amount recovered in cases involving fraud against federal health care programs.
This case was investigated jointly by the Commercial Litigation Branch of the Civil Division, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California, the National Association of Medicaid Fraud Control Units and HHS-OIG.
The claims settled by today’s agreement are allegations only and there has been no determination of liability.