Dr. Robert Dannenhoffer filed a federal whistleblower complaint today that claims he was fired as CEO of Architrave Health LLC in Roseburg after he reported $10 million in illegal Medicare payments to Douglas County physicians. You can view a copy of the complaint here: Complaint.
“Dr. Dannenhoffer was fired because he did the right thing,” said Jennifer Middleton, an attorney with Johnson, Johnson & Schaller PC who represents Dannenhoffer. “He is the definition of a whistleblower.”
Dannenhoffer’s lawsuit, which was lodged in U.S. District Court in Eugene, seeks reinstatement as Architrave’s CEO, back pay, punitive damages and attorney’s fees. “He wants to resume the work he started at Architrave to improve health care delivery to low-income Douglas County residents,” Middleton said. “He wants his reputation restored.”
Dannenhoffer, who was involved in creating Architrave Health in 2013, was fired February 17, 2015, three weeks after he disclosed improper billings and kickbacks by the Umpqua Medical Group, a wholly owned Architrave subsidiary, to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
The suit alleges his firing was in retaliation for Dannenhoffer’s actions after he uncovered fraudulent Medicare billings and resisted illegal practices to cover them up. According to the complaint, the Architrave board of directors reluctantly authorized Dannenhoffer to self-disclose the Stark Law violations in late January 2015, then without notice fired him. When Dannenhoffer asked why he was being fired, “He was told it was because he failed to ‘cooperate and coordinate,’” the complaint says.
The federal Stark Law prohibits claims for designated health services when doctors profit directly from services or tests they prescribe. Its purpose is to reduce financial incentives for doctors to order unnecessary health services. Punishment for Stark Law violations can include full refunds of improper payments and civil penalties.
After he was fired, Dannenhoffer was blacklisted. In May 2015, Dannenhoffer was hired as interim CEO of Umpqua Community Health Center in Roseburg, but when he applied for the permanent CEO position, he was not hired. Dannenhoffer says a member of the Architrave board of directors applied pressure not to retain him. Architrave refers Oregon Health Plan patients to the federally qualified health center.
Dannenhoffer’s suit also says he was denied a spot on the Community Health Alliance board of directors after a Mercy Medical Center official threatened to withdraw from the Roseburg health care organization.
“As a result of defendants’ unlawful interference, Dr. Dannenhoffer lost employment and beneficial business opportunities, suffered and continues to suffer lost income and benefits, loss of future earning capacity, and harm to his reputation and professional standing,” according to the complaint. Dannenhoffer has continued his Roseburg-based pediatric practice and is the public health administrator and public health officer for Douglas County.
Background on Dr. Robert Dannenhoffer
Dr. Dannenhoffer, 59, is a board-certified pediatrician who has been in practice in Roseburg since 1989. He graduated in 1980 from Albany Medical School, one of the oldest medical schools in the United States, and did his residency at Massachusetts General Hospital. Dannenhoffer has played a role in Oregon’s health care reform, most recently in implementing a coordinated care organization in Douglas County. He is currently the executive director for the Douglas Public Health Network and the public health officer for Douglas County. He is a past president of the Oregon Medical Association and was named a Smoke Free Oregon hero in 2012. He is the recipient of the George Miller Patient Safety Award and Oregon Business Association Statesman of the year award. Dannenhoffer was the inaugural chair of the Oregon Metrics and Scoring committee and is the Co-chair of the Task Force on Resolution of Adverse Healthcare Incidents.
Relevant Legal Issues
For more information about the Stark Law, you can visit the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services website and StarkLaw.org. A copy of the federal Anti-Kickback law is available here. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides this chart comparing the two laws.
For more coverage on this issue, see:
Jeff Manning, Former healthcare CEO claims he was fired for reporting $10 million in fraudulent Medicare Charges, The Oregonian, January 26, 2016.
Diana Novak Jones, Ex-CEO Says He Was Fired Over $10M Medicare Whistleblowing, Employment Law 360, January 26, 2016.