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Lompoc Valley Medical Center (LVMC), a California Health Care District that operates multiple health care providers, including a hospital and several clinics, has agreed to pay $5 million to resolve allegations that it violated the federal False Claims Act and the California False Claims Act by causing the submission of false claims to Medi-Cal related to Medicaid Adult Expansion under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA).

With this and several prior settlements, the United States now has recovered $95.5 million in connection with this investigation of entities in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties. CenCal, Cottage Health System, Sansum Clinic, and Community Health Centers of the Central Coast previously paid $68 million, and Dignity Health and Twin Cities Community Hospital and Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center, two subsidiaries of Tenet Healthcare Corporation previously paid $22.5 million, to settle similar False Claims Act allegations.

Pursuant to the ACA, beginning in January 2014, Medi-Cal was expanded to cover the previously uninsured “Adult Expansion” population – adults between the ages of 19 and 64 without dependent children with annual incomes up to 133% of the federal poverty level. The federal government fully funded the expansion coverage for the first three years of the program.

Under contracts with California’s Department of Health Care Services (DHCS), Santa Barbara San Luis Obispo Regional Health Authority, doing business as CenCal Health (CenCal), arranged for the provision of health care services as a county organized health system under California’s Medicaid program (Medi-Cal) in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties by contracting with providers such as LVMC to provide health care services to Medi-Cal patients. Under its contractual arrangement with DHCS, CenCal received funding to serve the Adult Expansion population. If CenCal did not spend at least 85% of the funds it received for the Adult Expansion population on “allowed medical expenses,” CenCal was required to pay back to the state the difference between 85% and what it actually spent. California, in turn, was required to return that amount to the federal government.

The settlement resolves allegations that LVMC knowingly caused the submission of false claims to Medi-Cal pursuant to agreements executed by LVMC with CenCal for “Enhanced Services” that LVMC purportedly provided to Adult Expansion Medi-Cal members between January 1, 2014 and June 30, 2016. The United States and California alleged that LVMC claimed and received payments pursuant to those agreements that were not for “allowed medical expenses” permissible under the contract between DHCS and CenCal, were pre-determined amounts that did not reflect the fair market value of any Enhanced Services provided by LVMC, and/or the Enhanced Services were duplicative of services already required to be rendered by LVMC. The United States and California further alleged that the payments were unlawful gifts of public funds in violation of the California Constitution.

The civil settlement includes the resolution of claims brought under the qui tam, or “whistleblower,” provisions of the False Claims Act by Julio Bordas, CenCal’s former medical director. Under the act, a private party can file an action on behalf of the United States and receive a portion of any recovery. The qui tam case is captioned United States and State of California ex rel. Bordas v. Lompoc Valley Medical Center, et al., (15-cv-09834, C.D. Cal.). Dr. Bordas will receive approximately $950,000 as his share of the federal recovery from the LVMC settlement.

The resolution obtained in this matter was the result of a coordinated effort between the United States Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California; the Justice Department’s Civil Division, Commercial Litigation Branch, Fraud Section; and the California Department of Justice. HHS-OIG and DHCS provided substantial assistance.