“One of the nation’s largest public charities steered financial aid to patients of its two biggest corporate donors — the dialysis chains DaVita and Fresenius — while denying help to people who used smaller, unrelated clinics, in violation of anti-kickback laws, according to a federal whistle-blower lawsuit unsealed this week in Boston,” Reed Abelson and Katie Thomas write for The New York Times. “The charity, the American Kidney Fund, helps patients who need dialysis by paying their health insurance premiums and other costs for treatment. But under a longstanding federal agreement intended to prevent illegal kickbacks, the charity is supposed to provide help based solely on a patient’s financial need, and not favor companies that donate to it. The lawsuit, filed by David Gonzalez, who worked for 12 years at the kidney fund in its patient assistance program until he left in 2015, accused the charity of creating a so-called blocked list of dialysis clinics whose patients would not get financial assistance while making sure patients at clinics operated by DaVita and Fresenius would. The Justice Department, which had earlier issued subpoenas regarding the accusations, said it would not join the case. But it requested that the court seek the department’s consent if a decision were reached to dismiss or settle the lawsuit. Some cases that did not involve federal prosecutors have still led to large settlements, including one in which Celgene agreed to pay $280 million to settle claims it had inappropriately marketed the cancer drugs Thalomid and Revlimid. In a statement, LaVarne A. Burton, president of the American Kidney Fund, said the group was pleased that the Justice Department had declined to intervene and said it had cooperated fully in the case. ‘We now know that this suit was brought by a former employee who, prior to making this complaint, was terminated for cause,’ she said. The fund adheres to the federal agreement that governs its charitable program, she added. ‘The Department of Justice has looked at this matter and decided not to pursue any action against DaVita,’ the company said in a statement. Fresenius declined to comment. A lawyer for Mr. Gonzalez did not return a request for comment.” Reed Abelson and Katie Thomas, “Top Kidney Charity Directed Aid to Patients at DaVita and Fresenius Clinics, Lawsuit Claims,” The New York Times.
Jeanne Pinder is the founder and CEO of ClearHealthCosts. She worked at The New York Times for almost 25 years as a reporter, editor and human resources executive, then volunteered for a buyout and founded... More by Jeanne Pinder