Last month, we announced a settlement with the Southern Spine & Pain Institute in a False Claims Act case brought by former employees Herretta Pickens and Teresa Williams. Ms. Pickens was a nurse practitioner at Southern Spine; she believed it was her calling to provide relief to those in pain. I asked Ms. Pickens, now that it was all over, why she decided to file a False Claims Act case in the first place. Here is what she said:
I started [down] this path because my patients wanted to be heard and needed a voice. Alone I was not much help, but with support from Teresa, and then you [Jason Marcus], Oscar [Prioleau], and Julie [Bracker], we made those voices heard.
During the process I further realized the enormous associated risks and threats to individuals who are economically challenged and/or uneducated. I now work harder than ever to be compassionate and empathetic with my patients. I do correctional medicine now and use this incident as a platform to help those with substance abuse issues and addiction to pain pills. I also have spoken [at] pain management education seminars put on by my peers. As difficult as this has been, it has been rewarding and taught me much. I hope this experience will make me a better provider.
Ms. Pickens chose a career in the medical profession to help people and, like many of our clients, came to us for that same purpose. Moreso than any other area of False Claims Act liability, Medicare and Medicaid fraud results in harm to the public, as patients face the prospects of unnecessary procedures, insufficient care, and exhausting of their insurance benefits. Healthcare fraud targets the sick and the infirm, the members of our society most in need of our attention and care, and we are thankful for practitioners like Herretta Pickens, who put their patients’ well-being ahead of all else.