Meijer Inc. will pay $3 million after the Midwest retail chain discovered it had employed four pharmacists who were barred from federal health programs, the government said Tuesday.
The pharmacists worked at Meijer stores in Michigan and Ohio from 1997 to 2006 and had been barred from Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare, a military health plan.
Federal law prohibits stores from using pharmacists on the exclusion list. Meijer gets federal reimbursement for many prescriptions it sells.
Meijer brought the issue to the government's attention and avoided more severe financial penalties, the U.S. attorney's office in western Michigan said.
"Vigorous enforcement of the exclusion law is vital to the integrity of the health care system, and the best way for companies to address their violations is through full disclosure to the government as soon as they discover the problem," U.S. Attorney Don Davis said in a statement.
Meijer spokesman Frank Guglielmi said the government was never billed for prescriptions that were not legitimate.
"At no time was customers' health or health care affected," added Guglielmi, who declined to answer further questions about the case.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan Cobb declined to identify the pharmacists, although the government has a public Web site with names of professionals who are excluded from federal health programs. He also declined to say why the four pharmacists had been excluded.
The reasons for getting on the list include convictions for fraud or patient abuse, action by state licensing boards and default on student loans, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.