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Suncoast physician pays nearly $2 million in settlement

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TAMPA, FL (WWSB) - A Sarasota physician has agreed to pay $1.9 million to resolve a lawsuit filed against his practice.

Acting United States Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow announced that Dr. Arthur Portnow, the owner and operator of Arthur S. Portnow, P.A., has agreed to pay the substantial settlement to resolve allegations that he and his practice violated the False Claims Act by knowingly seeking reimbursement for medically unnecessary ultrasound tests that were performed on Medicare beneficiaries.

The lawsuit stated that from Aug. 2009 through Aug. 2017 Dr. Portnow submitted fraudulent claims to Medicare for the evaluation and performance of medically unnecessary carotid ultrasounds, lower extremity arterial ultrasounds and other procedures.

The government also alleges that Dr. Portnow falsified patient records to justify those unnecessary ultrasounds, receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars as a result of the illicit testing.

“Fraudulently billing the government for medically unnecessary tests deprives federal health care programs, like Medicare, of valuable resources,” said acting U.S. Attorney Muldrow, “this settlement is evidence that our office will continue to pursue those who seek to unlawfully exploit our nation’s federal health care programs at the expense of patients and the Federal Treasury."

In addition to paying the $1.95 million, as part of the settlement, Dr. Portnow has also agreed to enter into an integrity agreement with the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The settlement concludes a lawsuit originally filed by a former employee, Kathleen Siwicki. She filed the suit under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act that permits private individuals to sue on behalf of the government for false claims and to share in any recovery.

Tips from all sources about potential fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement can be reported to the Department of Health and Human Services, at 800-HHS-TIPS (800-447-8477).

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