On April 15, the Department of Justice announced that it had reached a $41 million settlement with two Florida healthcare providers—a lab and a pain relief center, both subsidiaries of Surgery Partners—and two of its former executives over fraudulent billing claims because for half a decade patients suffered unnecessary urine drug tests solely for the purpose of getting reimbursements under Medicare and Medicaid.
However, on April 10, five days before that settlement was announced, another arm of the Trump Administration, the Department of Health and Human Services, gave Surgery Partners roughly $45 million total from the CARES bailout, per its filings with the Security and Exchange Commission.
The $41 million that Surgery Partners’ subsidiaries paid on April 15 to settle serious federal fraud allegations had been essentially erased the week earlier—all with taxpayer dollars.
“You have the federal government on the one hand accusing a company of cheating the government and then you have, [on] the other hand the government giving money to that same company,” says Philip Mattera, Research Director at Good Jobs First, a non-profit organization tracking recipients of CARES funds. “At the very least, it’s unseemly.”
It’s also not uncommon. Good Jobs First found dozens of health care providers and nursing homes that received bailout funds under the CARES Act after reaching settlements on federal fraud allegations within the last decade—some worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
William M. McSwain, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, called the allegations “the type of conduct that must be rooted out of our health-care system.” But even as the settlement was made public, HHS was propping up those same companies with taxpayor funds.