FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The nation's largest supplier of HIV and AIDS medical care is accused of bilking Medicare and Medicaid in an elaborate $20 million scam that spanned 12 states, according to a lawsuit filed in South Florida federal court.
Three former managers of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation filed a suit last week alleging the company paid employees and patients kickbacks for patient referrals in an effort to boost funding from federal health programs. Employees were paid $100 bonuses for referring patients with positive test results to its clinics and pharmacies. The lawsuit alleges kickbacks started in 2010 at the company's California headquarters and spread to programs in Florida and several other locations.
The Los Angeles-based company cares for more than 400,000 patients in 36 countries and is leading a mass testing initiative to identify and treat an estimated 25 million people who don't know they are infected, according to its website.
The referrals were key to the company's business model and touted by AHF President Michael Weinstein at a 2013 leadership summit, where the complaint alleges he specifically directed staff to immediately raise the patient financial incentive to $50 and to implement the incentive program nationally throughout the organization.
The company's general counsel Tom Myers said Wednesday denied that the company paid kickbacks or violated the law in any way, saying it would continue to care for thousands of HIV and AIDS patients around the U.S. while fighting the claims.
"The federal government and state of Florida had a chance to deal with this case ... and they declined to get involved which I think speaks volumes to the merits of the claim," Myers said in a phone interview.
Former managers Jack Carrel of Louisiana, Mauricio Ferrer of Florida, and Shawn Loftis of New York, filed the whistleblower complaint. The three were fired from the company after notifying their supervisors about the company's alleged wrongdoing, even though their attorneys said they are protected under the False Claims Act.