U.S. Fines Firm for Medicare Mailings
The Department of Health and Human Services fined U.S. Seminar Corp. of La Mesa more than $1 million, saying Tuesday that the company falsely claimed that it had official ties to the Medicare program.
The fine, which can be appealed within 60 days, would be the largest ever imposed by the department. U.S. Seminar representatives could not be reached for comment.
Government officials say U.S. Seminar mailed out a series of 362,086 color-coded solicitations to doctors and other health-care providers from February 2001 to August 2002, including a pink “final notice” that warned of audits and other potential problems if the recipients failed to attend its seminars.
In those solicitations, U.S. Seminar “used the words and letters of the Medicare program and HHS” in a way that could lead the recipients to believe that the company’s seminars were “approved, endorsed or authorized by Medicare,” HHS Assistant Inspector General Larry J. Goldberg said in a letter to U.S. Seminar, a copy of which was made public.
U.S. Seminar workers also were accused of identifying themselves as Medicare representatives and of telling health-care providers that attendance at their seminars was mandatory. Federal officials said U.S. Seminar ignored warnings to stop misrepresenting itself.
Bruce Frickelton, executive director of the Washington State Chiropractic Assn., said members of his group complained that a U.S. Seminar subsidiary, Doctors Assistance Corp., told them that they faced audits if they did not attend the company’s seminars.
He said the problem was made worse because his organization had already held seminars on the same topic. “We were quite offended. Our credibility was on the line,” Frickelton said.
The government did not say how much U.S. Seminar charged for its courses, but the Advocate for Nonprofit Services for Older Ohioans said recently that the company was charging $427 for a manual alone.
Start your day right
Sign up for Essential California for news, features and recommendations from the L.A. Times and beyond in your inbox six days a week.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.