Federal judge dismisses whistle-blower suit against Health First

A federal judge in Florida has dismissed a whistle-blower lawsuit against Health First that accused the Rockledge, Fla.-based health system of defrauding the government by providing kickbacks to physicians for patient referrals. 

An unidentified whistle-blower brought the case against Health First, a nonprofit health system that owns four hospitals. According to the suit, Health First paid various forms of kickbacks to physicians for patient referrals from 1999 to 2013. Health First allegedly billed Medicare for services provided to patients who were referred as part of the illegal kickback scheme.

The qui tam suit alleged Health First violated the Anti-Kickback Statute, Stark Law, the federal False Claims Act and Florida's False Claims Act.

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Roy B. Dalton dismissed the whistle-blower suit, holding that the amended complaint failed to satisfy the minimum pleading requirements for qui tam actions.

Under the court's order, the whistle-blower may file a second amended complaint on or before Aug. 22.

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