Following the submission of hundreds of bogus asbestos claims, a judge ordered a health clinic in a Montana town plagued by deadly asbestos pollution to pay the government about $6 million in penalties and damages.
Patients who shouldn’t have been eligible for Medicare and other benefits became so because of the 337 bogus claims.
The federally supported clinic has led the medical response to the lethal mining contamination near Libby, Montana.
The Center for Asbestos Related Disease clinic was found guilty in a federal lawsuit brought by BNSF Railway in 2019 under the False Claims Act, which permits private parties to bring claims against the government.
The center allegedly submitted claims on behalf of patients without having enough proof they had an asbestos-related ailment, according to BNSF, which is itself a defendant in a large number of asbestos-related litigation.
US District Judge Dana Christensen announced in a July 18 order that he was enforcing a harsh penalty to deter future wrongdoing after a seven-person jury agreed last month.
Concerns Raised Over Montana Health Clinic Unethical Practices
Christensen stated that he was particularly concerned about the fact that the clinic’s well-known physician, Brad Black, had self-diagnosed an asbestos-related ailment and that a nurse had approved benefits for her own mother.
The court also referenced evidence from the trial showing that the clinic frequently prescribed opioids to patients who may not have actually had an asbestos-related diagnosis.
The judge noted that the clinic showed a careless disregard for appropriate medical procedure and the rules governing government programs.
The judge tripled the $1.1 million in damages found by the jury, to over $3.3 million, in accordance with the law’s instructions, and added $2.6 million in extra penalties.
According to the False Claims Act, the judge granted BNSF 25% of the earnings. There haven’t been any criminal charges made against the clinic, and federal prosecutors have previously declined to get involved in the matter.