Judge: Whistleblower can sue IU Health network for billing, not retaliation

Dr. Judith Robinson, whistleblower (WTHR photo)

A whistleblower who accused IU Health of compromising care for low-income pregnant women can proceed with a fraudulent billing lawsuit against the state's largest health network.

But a federal judge dismissed claims that Dr. Judy Robinson was fired in retaliation for speaking up.

"She brought this case to make sure Medicaid patients are getting the care they deserve. We believe allowing this lawsuit to go forward is a really strong step in that direction," said Jillian Estes, partner with the James Hoyer Law Firm, which is representing Robinson.

13 Investigates first sat down with Robinson a year ago.

The former maternity director said mothers and babies were put at risk as part of fraudulent money making scheme. She said high-risk pregnant women were being cared for by certified nurse midwives instead of doctors, as required by state Medicaid rules. At the same time, Robinson said IU Health and HealthNet were billing at doctors' rates.

Donna Mills' daughter, Tana Tyler, died giving birth to her baby boy, Chase, who suffers from permanent neurological damage. In the lawsuit, Robinson described alleged mistakes by a nurse midwife in Tyler's medical care.

A federal judge says Robinson's lawsuit on fraudulent billing can move forward, but dropped insurance carrier MDWise from the lawsuit, saying Robinson "improperly lumped together MDWise in her claims."

Robinson was fired from her job six months after raising concerns about the care to her bosses, but Judge Tanya Walton Pratt ruled there was no support for claims of retaliation. The judge also dismissed anti-kickback claims raised by Robinson. 

"We're disappointed, but we've decided to focus all of our efforts on the false claims part of the lawsuit," explained Estes, who said the firm plans to refile anti-kickback claims within the next 21 days.

IU Health did not offer comment on the ruling, issuing the following statement through spokesman Gene Ford:

"According to our policy, IU Health is not at liberty to comment on this case given that it is a matter of active litigation." said Spokesman Gene Ford.

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