Florida cardiologist settles with the DOJ, agrees to pay $2 million fine

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Asar Qamar, MD, a cardiologist from Ocala, Florida, agreed to pay $2 million and release claim to $5.3 million in suspended Medicare funds as part of a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). He also agreed to stop participating in federal healthcare programs for three years.

The DOJ alleged that Qamar and his practice, the Institute of Cardiovascular Excellence, billed Medicare, Medicaid and TRICARE for unnecessary and inadequately documented peripheral artery interventional services and related procedures.

The government also alleged that Qamar and his practice often waived the mandatory 20 percent copayment for Medicare patients, which motivated patients to agree to procedures that may not have been warranted.

Qamar, the highest-paid Medicare cardiologist in 2012 and 2013, declared for bankruptcy in April. He received $18.3 million in 2012 and $16 million in 2013 for treating Medicare patients, according to the Wall Street Journal.

In 2014, Qamar told New York Times that questions about his Medicare payments were unwarranted. The newspaper reported that the second highest-paid Medicare cardiologist in 2012 received $4.5 million.

“Just looking at the sheer volume of work and billings from a single physician is not a sign of wrongdoing,” Qamar told the newspaper.

The federal government intervened in December 2014 when it consolidated two whistleblower lawsuits filed against Qamar under the False Claims Act. As part of the settlement, Robert A. Green, MD, and Holly A. Taylor will each receive $1,327,721. The Ocala Star Banner reported that Green is a former employee and Taylor is a former director of client services for a medical management company.

“Billing federal health programs for medically unnecessary procedures is unacceptable – not only does it waste taxpayer funds, but it also puts patients at risk,” Benjamin C. Mizer, head of the DOJ’s civil division, said in a news release. “Today’s settlement evidences the Department of Justice’s firm commitment to protect public funds and to safeguard the well-being of federal health care program beneficiaries.”