VICTORY! Federal Court Dismisses Whistleblower Claims Against AHF; Validates AHF Model of HIV Testing & Linkage

In News by AHF

In May 2017, in a ‘Statement of Interest’ submitted in the case, the Department of Justice and three United States Attorneys in South Florida also went as far as to suggest that AHF’s successful model of HIV testing and linkage is a preferred model and one encouraged under the Ryan White Program.

FT. LAUDERDALE (June 20, 2017) In a resounding victory for AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), a federal court in Florida has dismissed claims in a whistleblower lawsuit (Case 0:14-cv-61301-KMW) brought by three former AHF employees who challenged AHF’s pro-active and successful approach to finding and linking HIV-positive individuals in Florida to lifesaving medical care and treatment with unfounded allegations about the legality of AHF’s model of HIV testing and linkage. The Court, the Department of Justice and three U.S. Attorneys in South Florida also suggested in its ruling and pleadings that AHF’s model of HIV testing and linkage is even a preferred model, or one encouraged under the Ryan White Program.

In a ruling dated June 9, 2017 and formally unsealed earlier today, the Honorable Kathleen M. Williams, United States District Judge for the United States District Court, Southern District of Florida, dismissed the claims brought against AHF, holding that “the undisputed facts demonstrate that AHF paid the bonuses connected to the two Representative False Claims to an AHF employee engaged in the provision of covered services.”

Despite the fact that neither the United States Government nor the State of Florida chose to intervene in the former employees’ case (declining to intervene in the case in February 2015)—an action that is often a telling indicator of the potential insufficiency of claims in a case—the three ex-employees nevertheless pursued the case with private attorneys.

On May 30, 2017, the United States Federal Government filed a formal brief in the case (a Statement of Interest) in which they wrote that the former AHF employees were “incorrect” in their unfounded assertions about AHF’s business model of testing and linkage.

In the Statement of Interest, three Department of Justice lawyers in Washington and one Acting Attorney General as well as two U.S. Attorneys all assigned to the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida wrote that performance-based commissions (i.e. bonuses) paid to employees are legal and proper “… within the confines of the Ryan White Program” as long as long as they are made to “…bona fide [AHF] employees.”  In fact, the government argued “That Congress embraced the notion of ‘one stop shopping’ for patients with HIV/AIDS.”

“The fact that the Federal Government and the State of Florida each formally declined to intervene in the legal action brought on behalf of three former AHF employees spoke volumes about the merits of the case, and today’s dismissal of these unfounded whistleblower claims by the court is a tremendous victory not only for AHF, but for the patients and public we serve daily. We thank the court for its wisdom in this ruling,” said Michael Weinstein, President of AHF.

“A core function of fighting the epidemic is getting people linked and retained in care, and incentivizing employees to do this is perfectly appropriate, proper, and legal,” said Michael Kahane, Chief of AHF’s Southern Bureau. “With more than sixty percent of people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States currently not in regular medical care and treatment, it remains core to AHF’s mission to try and reduce that number. Our pro-active approach to finding and linking HIV-positive individuals to lifesaving care and treatment is critical to stopping HIV in this country, and we are pleased to have the court and federal government’s validation of this model.”

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