The U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida and the Civil Division of the U.S. Department of Justice announced yesterday that WellCare Health Plans had agreed to pay $137.5 million to settle a qui tam/ False Claims Act case pending against it, primarily in the Middle District of Florida, that has been pending for years. You can see the links above for a fuller description of the case and settlement.
Remarkably, WellCare announced the settlement of the qui tam almost two years ago on June 26, 2010 when I was serving as U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida. See St. Petersburg Times, June 26, 2010, "WellCare Health Plans Strikes $137.5 million settlement, challenged by new whistle-blower disclosures."
Just as remarkably, in the two years prior to the government's announcement of the settlement, the relator's counsel, a prominent criminal defense attorney who stood to reap millions in fees, had already begun criticizing the not-yet-announced settlement as "grossly inadequate" and claiming that "tax payers" were "unfairly disadvantaged" by the settlement. Though he acknowledged the "financial benefits" of any settlement to the relator, relator's counsel argued to the St. Petersburg Times that a larger settlement was more important in order "to deter any effort by companies such as WellCare to take advantage of the health care system or the people who should be served by this system."
The chief relator in the WellCare case, Sean Hellein, is slated to receive $21 million in the settlement.
A. Brian Albritton
April 4, 2012