US drops lawsuit against UnitedHealth over alleged billing scheme

The Department of Justice called off its lawsuit against UnitedHealth Group claiming the Minnetonka, Minn.-based insurer submitted false claims to increase Medicare payments, Reuters reports.

The government dropped the claims after a federal judge rejected the lawsuit last week, but said it could be amended. U.S. District Judge John Walter in Los Angeles ruled last Thursday the government's lawsuit failed to name UnitedHealth officials who signed documents confirming the accuracy of information submitted to the government. Judge Walter also ruled the lawsuit did not allege any individuals knew the information was inaccurate, and that the claims failed to show the government would not have paid UnitedHealth if federal officials knew about the inaccuracies. 

UnitedHealth spokesperson Matt Burns told Reuters the payer is "pleased with the government's decision to dismiss these meritless claims." The DOJ declined to comment on the decision. 

Earlier this year, the DOJ intervened in two whistle-blower lawsuits against UnitedHealth over Medicare Advantage reimbursement under the False Claims Act. The lawsuit Judge Walter rejected, which the DOJ filed in May, concerned a whistle-blower lawsuit filed in 2009 by James Swoben, a former employee of a California-based managed care plan. The second lawsuit, claiming UnitedHealth defrauded Medicare of at least $1 billion in false claims, is still pending. 

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