Three former managers with one of the nation's biggest providers of HIV and AIDS care have filed a whistle-blower complaint alleging the organization engaged in a $20 million scam to boost Medicare and Medicaid payments, the Associated Press reports. According to the federal lawsuit, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation paid kickbacks to employees and patients for referrals that would increase billings with the federal health-care programs.
The plaintiffs claim the effort spanned 12 states and that they were fired after notifying supervisors about the referral scheme. The Los Angeles-based foundation, which serves more than 400,000 HIV/AIDS patients in 36 countries, said such incentives are common in public-health programs and crucial to its work.
"Not only has AIDS Healthcare Foundation done nothing wrong, our pro-active approach to finding and linking HIV-positive individuals to lifesaving care and treatment is critical to stopping HIV in this country," the group's president, Michael Weinstein, said in a statement.