Whistleblower talks about $100 million lawsuit against IU Health

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Indiana's largest health network defrauded taxpayers of $100 million, according to a local doctor who filed a whistleblower suit on behalf of the U. S. government.

 The recently unsealed complaint says IU Health and HealthNet were cashing in while risking the health of low-income mothers and their babies.

13 Investigates sat down with the whistleblower behind the claims.

Dr. Judith Robinson had a unique glimpse into both maternity programs at IU Methodist and the HealthNet Clinics. She served as the medical director of both. She says it was three cases of permanent damage to babies and moms and 17 near misses that prompted her to speak up.

"The most egregious part is that these babies and their mothers suffered and didn't need to," Robinson told 13 Investigates in her first television interview.  

The former administrator said she couldn't believe how low-income women with high-risk pregnancies were failing to get appropriate doctors care under the watch of IU Health and it's network.

"IU and HealthNet wouldn't allow us to," she said.

Instead, the women were allegedly treated by midwives with less training at partner HealthNet Clinics, despite federal medicaid rules saying it "does not permit treatment or referrals to non-physicians for high-risk pregnancy-related services."       

Robinson says along the way, moms and babies were harmed for life.

"This would not happen at IU North, IU West, suburban hospitals.  We don't have this type of process.  Why is it allowed?  Why is it okay for the people there?" she asked.

According to Robinson and the $100 million federal lawsuit:

IU Health failed to provide crucial doctor services, but billed Medicaid at the doctors rate in those same high-risk cases knowing midwives actually provided the treatment.  

According to the complaint it was a financial scheme in which IU Health collected three times more by listing a doctor as opposed to a midwife.  

In another email, the chief at HealthNet reportedly writes:  "Certified Nurse Midwives get paid 1/3 to 1/2 what Ob/Gyns get paid."

"It's rather astounding, financial aspects are more important to some large health institutions rather than patient care issues," said Robinson.

Concern over the problems date back to November 2010, when Robinson got a email about high-risk moms being treated one night without appropriate physicians on hand.   The staff member writes:

"...we  are not staffed to optimize patient safety, physician safety or patient satisfaction."

Robinson says she alerted top administrators, but six months after she says she offered up proof she was fired.

Robinson says she was offered another position with IU Health if she would sign an agreement to keep quiet. She is also now suing for wrongful termination.

"As a physician, as a person, I couldn't turn the other cheek and say that that should be allowed," she told 13 Investigates, explaining why she took the information to the government.

We reached out to IU Health.  In a statement, the health provider said:

In keeping with its corporate policy and "out of respect for those involved, IU Health does not comment on matters involving active litigation" but is cooperating with requests throughout the investigation.