Northwest ENT pays $1.2M restitution to feds

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A Marietta-based medical group with an office in Cartersville agreed in federal court Aug. 3 to pay nearly $1.2 million for re-using sinus catheters and making false claims to Medicare.

According to federal prosecutors, between March 2011 and March 2012, Northwest ENT Associates, otolaryngology specialists also known as ear, nose and throat physicians, treated sinus infections by inserting balloon catheters into patients' sinuses and inflating them to enlarge the cavity allowing easier treatment of the infection.  

The catheters used by Northwest ENT were designated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as single-use only, however, the Northwest ENT physicians allegedly re-used the devices, then submitted false claims to Medicare, the armed forces healthcare program and the Federal Employee Health Benefit Plans.

According to a press release, Northwest ENT accepted responsibility for its actions, agreed to pay $1,195,361 to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act and entered into a three-year agreement with the Department of Health and Human Services to allow an independent organization to conduct quarterly reviews of Northwest ENT’s claims for medical necessity, accurate coding and safe and appropriate use of medical devices.

Northwest ENT has five office locations, including a single specialty surgery center, and provides services at four hospitals in Georgia.

“When healthcare providers take shortcuts in order to increase their financial bottom line, their patients are put at risk and federal funds are diverted from legitimate medical procedures,” said Byung J. “BJay” Pak, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia “This settlement demonstrates our commitment to pursuing healthcare providers who put their own financial well-being ahead of the well-being of their patients.”

Northwest ENT refused comment Monday afternoon.